I am delighted that the Colorado Kids Sun Care Program has been added to the RTIPs repository and I look forward to discussing the project further!
A blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence more than doubles the adult risk of skin cancer. The accumulation of long-term sun exposure may be equally dangerous.
The Colorado Kids Sun Care Program found that mailed sun protection packets led to higher frequency of sun protective behaviors including the use of long clothing, hats, shade, sunscreen, and midday sun avoidance. This low-cost, effective intervention can be an important component in efforts to reduce sun exposure in children during the years that they acquire much of their risk for skin cancer.
Our study recruited 676 six-year-olds and their parents: half of whom completed phone interviews and other data collection, and half of whom also received intervention kits. Kits included newsletters and sun protection resources, such as swim shirts, hats, sunscreen and sun protection educational activities.
The kits were mailed in April and May of 2005, 2006 and 2007, with the goal of guiding parents and children to ever-increasing stages of adopting sun-safe behaviors (from the early stage of "unaware" to fully engaged and actively practicing).
Phone interviews determined not only the level of sun-protective behaviors, but also parents' knowledge about melanoma, their evaluation of their child's lifetime risk for the disease, and their opinion of skin cancer severity. Skin exams discovered children's level of tanning and number of nevi -- the UV-influenced moles that can presage melanoma.
Across all measures of sun-protective behavior and awareness, the intervention group showed greater gains than the control group. Interestingly, the greatest increases were in the specific sun-protective behaviors emphasized in each yearly kit.
Although behavior changes in the trial were modest, the intervention was relatively inexpensive and, because it used postal mail, it could be readily delivered to a geographically broad population.
I continue to work in the area of skin cancer prevention. The cohort that was involved in the Colorado Kids Sun Care Program has been followed for an additional five years to look at risk factors for skin cancer, most prominently the development of nevi (moles) on the skin, which is the main risk factor for melanoma of the skin.