ACP American College of Physicians - Internal Medicine - Doctors for Adults

Effective Clinical Practice

Skin Cancer Prevention in Outdoor Recreation Settings: Effects of the Hawaii SunSmart Program

Effective Clinical Practice, March/April 2000.

Context. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it is one of the most preventable. Interventions for young children and their parents can help prevent future cases of skin cancer.

Objective. To determine whether a skin cancer prevention program implemented at outdoor recreation sites improved children's sun-protection behaviors and site sun-protection policies.

Design. Randomized trial of 14 outdoor recreation sites on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The trial had three arms: control, education only, and education/environment.

Intervention. The education arm included staff training, on-site activities, take-home booklets, behavior-monitoring boards, and incentives. The education/environment arm included all education components plus provision of sunscreen and promotion of sun-safe environments.

Participants. Children 6 to 8 years of age and their parents.

Outcome Measures. Reports from parents of children's sun-protection behaviors and the sun-protection policies of recreation sites. The cohort for analysis from baseline to 6 weeks after testing had 383 participants; the cohort from 6 weeks after testing to 3 months of follow-up had 285 participants.

Results. Program implementation was high in the education only and the education/environment sites. Compared with control sites, children's sun-protection behaviors and, in particular, the use of sunscreen improved significantly at sites where the two interventions were implemented. In addition, sun-protection policies of recreation sites were markedly higher at intervention arm sites. The education/environment intervention was not superior to education alone. Changes were partly maintained at 3 months of follow-up.

Conclusion. A creative, engaging, multicomponent skin cancer prevention program in outdoor recreation settings can lead to modest improvements in children's sun-protection behaviors.