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Social Norms Influence Lifeguards' Safe Sun Habits

Workplace policies and participation in sun protection programs also play a role

TUESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Workplace safe sun policies and participation in skin cancer prevention programs both help improve the sun protection habits of lifeguards and aquatic instructors, but social norms exert the greatest influence, researchers report in the February issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Dawn M. Hall, of Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study of 1,686 lifeguards and aquatic instructors, of whom 699 participated in the Pool Cool skin cancer prevention program in 2001 while 987 participated in the 2002 program, to ascertain what sun protection measures they took and their number of sunburns.

Social norms and pool policies that supported safe sun habits had the greatest influence over the participants' sun protection habits, the researchers report. Sunscreen was used by over 60 percent of respondents, but wearing a hat, staying in the shade and covering the skin were less commonly deployed sun protection strategies, the investigators found.

"Organizational and social environments supportive of sun safety are key to sun safety behaviors of the staff and to reducing sunburns. Participation in a sun safety program in the aquatic setting may help to improve sun safety behaviors among the pool staff," the authors conclude. "Future research should explore the effectiveness of sun safety programs that directly target lifeguards and aquatic instructors and integrate multiple strategies for improving policies, social norms and sun safety behaviors."

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