Assessment of sun-protective attitudes and behaviours of parents and the impact on their children

Background: Prolonged UV exposure increases risk of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Despite targeted public health campaigns directed at minimizing UV exposure in Australia, NMSC treatments increased by 86% between 1997 and 2010.[i] Parents’ attitudes and behaviours to sun protection may influence childrens’ behaviour and exposure.
Objective: We sought to determine whether parents’ knowledge and attitude to sun protection impacted their child’s UV exposure.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted of parents’ behaviours and attitudes toward sun protection. Surveys completed by parents attending public and private dermatology clinics located in Sydney and Gosford. Basic descriptive statistics applied with SPSS statistics software.
Results: Parents with a lower level education were strongly correlated with higher rates of experiencing serious sunburn (p<0.0001). There was strong evidence that parents who don't apply sunscreen to their child are more likely to have been seriously sunburnt in the last 12 months (p<0.01). There was also strong evidence for a relationship between more sunburns and older age in children (p<0.001).
Conclusion: Older generations of Australians with high incidence of NMSC may transferring negative messages to younger generations in regards to UV exposure behaviours. Parents attitudes towards sun protection plays an important role in younger generation’s future risk of skin cancer, and are thus an important target for sun-safety messaging.
1. Fransen M, Karahalios A, Sharma N. Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia. Med J Aust 2012; 197 (10): 565-568.

Dr. Victoria Harris

Royal North Shore Hospital

Dermatology Research Fellow at Royal North Shore Hospital