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On Sun Safety, Pool Staff May Take Cue From Others

Peer pressure affects use of sunscreen, coverups, study finds

TUESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Outdoor pool staff are more likely to follow sun safety measures if their peers do the same, suggests a study by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta.

Lifeguards and aquatic instructors at outdoor pools are at high risk for sun overexposure, noted Dawn M. Hall and colleagues at the university's Rollins School of Public Health.

The researchers analyzed data collected from the Pool Cool skin cancer prevention program, which included 1,686 staffers from 191 pools that took part in the program during the summer of 2001, 2002, or both. Most of the participants, who ranged in age from 15 to 60, were white and female, and more than half were 15 and 19 years old. About 60 percent of them taught the Pool Cool sun-safety lessons each year.

"About 50 percent of aquatic staff had a history of severe sunburn, and almost 80 percent had experienced sunburn the previous summer," the researchers wrote.

They found that more than 80 percent of the participants reported habitual use of sunglasses, more than 60 percent said they used sunscreen regularly, and less than half reported regular use of a shirt with sleeves, staying in the shade or wearing a hat while exposed to the sun.

"There was a trend toward fewer sunburns as social norms, pool policies and participation in the Pool Cool program increased, but results differed across the two years," the researchers wrote. "In 2001, lower social norm scores and pool policy scores were associated with more reported sunburns. In 2002, teaching Pool Cool sun safety lessons was associated with fewer sunburns."

"Healthy sun behaviors among one's peers will likely have a positive influence on an individual's sun safety habits," the study concluded. "Furthermore, sun-safe pool polices also foster healthier sun-safety behaviors among the staff while they are at work and create a work environment conducive to developing healthy sun-protection habits."

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about sun safety.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Feb. 16, 2009

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