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SunSmart Program Ups Sun Protection Behaviors

Findings based on decades-long study in Australia

MONDAY, Oct. 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A skin cancer prevention program — “SunSmart” — can create lasting changes in sun protection behavior and contribute to the decline in melanoma rates, according to a study published online Oct. 8 in PLOS Medicine.

Tamara Tabbakh, from the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues conducted a survey in Melbourne in the summer before the SunSmart cancer prevention program began (1987 to 1988) and across summers in three subsequent decades (1988 to 2017). Additionally, residents (aged 14 to 69 years) were recruited to weekly telephone interviews during summer months to assess tanning attitudes, sun protection behavior, and sunburn incidence on the weekend prior to the interview.

Based on 13,285 respondents, the researchers found that use of sun protection increased rapidly in the decade after SunSmart commenced. Compared with before the implementation of SunSmart, the odds of use of at least one sun protection behavior on summer weekends was three times higher in the 1990s (adjusted odds ratio, 3.04). For maximal sun protection, including shade, there was a smaller increase (adjusted odds ratio, 1.68). Improvements were sustained into the 2000s and further increased in the 2010s.

“With an estimated 20-year lag between sun exposure and melanoma incidence, our findings are consistent with SunSmart having contributed to the reduction in melanoma among younger cohorts,” the authors write.

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