An educational intervention targeting sunscreen use in student athletes was associated with improved sunscreen use.
Researchers with the Stanford University Network for Sun Protection, Outreach, Research, and Teamwork (SUNSPORT) program targeted not only athletes, but also coaches and athletic trainersbecause of their increased skin cancer risk due to prolonged sun exposure. They assessed the impact of the program on the understanding of sun protection beliefs and practices, according to the findings.
The study included 846 National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes, who were surveyed before and after the intervention, which consisted of dermatologists educating the target populations. The study was conducted between Sept. 23, 2012, and Sept. 20, 2015.
Student athletes reported an increase in sunscreen use 4 or more days per week after the intervention. Before the intervention, 26% of athletes reported protecting themselves at this level, compared with 39% after (P = .02)
The increase was from 26% to 57% among athletes who were spoken to by their coaches about sun protection (P = .0001). The researchers also increased athlete recognition of higher skin cancer risk for those who fail to appropriately protect themselves (from 54% to 67%; P = .04).
Other findings indicated that sunscreen use increased from 28% to 47% after the intervention among student athletes with skin types I to III (P = .056). Increases also were seen among female student athletes (34% vs. 53%; P = .0364), those who reported concern about aesthetic consequences of ultraviolet exposure (29% vs. 55%; P = .0028), and those who reported concern about cancer-related consequences of ultraviolet exposure (30% vs. 45%; P = .01).
Sunscreen use also increased among athletes who reported being outdoors for more than 2 hours per day (P = .05), those who were outdoors 10 more months per year (P = .04), and those who reported having one to three sunburns in the past year (P = .034), according to the findings.
“This study emphasizes that education directed to [student athletes], [athletic trainers], and coaches can improve sun-protective practices in [student athletes],” the researchers concluded. – by Rob Volansky
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.