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Sun protection program increases hat use among 4th graders
Date:3/26/2010

Tampa, FL (March 24, 2010) -- A sun protection intervention program that encouraged fourth-graders to wear hats outdoors as a skin cancer prevention measure significantly increased hat use at school, a study by researchers at the University of South Florida College of Medicine found. The program, however, had no effect on self-reported hat use at home or on measures of skin pigmentation.

The study is published online this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The researchers report outcomes through the first year of a two-year follow-up from the Sun Protection of Florida's Children program, a cluster randomized trial.

"This study shows it is possible to successfully put into place an educational program that leads to sustained use of hats for sun protection at school an intervention that may limit sun damage early in life," said principal investigator Richard Roetzheim, MD, MSPH, a professor in the USF Department of Family Medicine.

Getting children to wear hats and protective clothing to shade their skin is important, because people receive as much as 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure before age 18, Dr. Roetzheim said. "There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Tanning is the skin's attempt to protect itself from damage done by the sun, and many skin cancers that adults develop are from exposures during childhood."

USF researchers followed nearly 2,500 fourth-graders at 22 elementary schools in Hillsborough County, FL. Half of the schools (1,115 students) were assigned to the sun protection program and provided lightweight, tightly-woven hats with wide brims designed to shade the most vulnerable parts of the head, face and neck. The hats are worn while playing outside; one remains at school and another goes home with each student. Half of the schools (1,376 students) were in the control group and did not receive hats.

Students in the intervention schools received information ab
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@health.usf.edu
813-974-3300
University of South Florida Health
Source:Eurekalert  

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