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Sun safety is being promoted this September with free UV indicating wristbands and sunscreen at beaches in an effort to get children and young people to make sunscreen and other sun protection part of their daily routine.
The initiative by Queensland Health and Surf Life Saving Queensland puts into action Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research on the use of UV-sensing wristbands. QUT Public Health researcher Dr Elke Hacker, who is an expert in the use of technology to promote sun-safe habits, conducted the study in November 2019.
She said the majority of the 188 participants who were provided with a UV wristband reported increased use of sunscreen on their face and other parts of the body.
The wristbands had special UV-sensitive dyes that changed color when in sunlight, indicating sunscreen was required or other behaviors to reduce sun exposure were needed.
“They reported high satisfaction with the UV wristband because it helped to remind them to use sun protection,” Dr Hacker said.
Dr Hacker said sunlight or ultraviolet radiation (UVR) was the main risk factor for skin cancer.
“That’s why sun protection in summer and all year should be a daily practice.
“Just one severe sunburn in childhood can double risk of a melanoma before the age of 40.
“We know childhood and adolescence are critical periods during which exposure to UVR contributes to skin cancer in later life and the amount of sun exposure received in the first 20 years is about half of our total lifetime sun exposure.”
Dr Hacker said the participants were also asked if they had received any sunburn during the festival.
“The survey at the start of the festival asked about sunburns in the previous year and more than 92 per cent of participants reported one or more sunburns.
“On follow-up at the end of the festival, the participants reported fewer sunburns, and these were mainly of mild intensity.
“However, we found that the participants who reported high-risk behaviour, such as deliberate tanning, in the previous year were more likely to report a sunburn during the festival.”
Dr Hacker said sun protection was a multifaceted behavior in adolescents, involving a wide range of factors.
Horsham C, Antrobus J, Olsen CM, Ford H, Abernethy D, Hacker E. Testing Wearable UV Sensors to Improve Sun Protection in Young Adults at an Outdoor Festival: Field Study. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2020;8(9):e21243