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Predictors of Sunscreen Use in Childhood

Raezelle Zinman, MD, FRCPC; Stacey Schwartz, MD, FRCPC; Kevin Gordon, MD, FRCPC; Eleanor Fitzpatrick, BSc, RN; Carol Camfield, MD, FRCPC
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(7):804-807. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170200094015.
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Objective:  To identify risk factors predictive of sunscreen use in children.

Design:  Cross-sectional review of convenience sample.

Setting:  Emergency department of a regional referral pediatric hospital.

Subjects:  Nine hundred twenty-five parents of children presenting to the emergency department in August 1993.

Main Outcome Measures:  Parental risk factors assessed were use of sunscreen, tanning behaviors, previous blistering sunburn, knowledge of cancer risk related to sunburn and sun protection factor definition, education level, and other health-promoting behaviors. The parents were asked about perceived risk for their child's being sunburned in the next month or development of skin cancer in their lifetime, as well as an estimation of safe sun exposure time for their child. Child risk factors included a history of previous painful sunburn and parental assessment of their child's skin type based on susceptibility to sunburn.

Results:  Eighty-four percent of parents reported that their children had used sunscreen at least once in the previous 2 months. The use of sunscreen in children younger than 1 year was 54%, from 1 to 12 years of age was 91%, and older than 12 years was 68%. Factors associated with increased likelihood of sunscreen use were age of 1 to 12 years, parental use of sunscreen, estimation of safe sun exposure of less than 30 minutes, description of child skin type as burns "sometimes," "easily," or "always," and correct definition of sun protection factor. Application of a multivariate model yielded a sensitivity of 96%, specificity of 36%, and positive predictive value of sunscreen use of 89%.

Conclusions:  Sunscreen use in parents is predictive of use in their children and relates more to experience with sunburn than with concerns about future skin cancer risk.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:804-807)

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