TUESDAY, Aug. 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- By discussing skin cancer risks with their children, parents can encourage sun-safe behaviors in youngsters, says a study in the August issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
This approach is especially effective when parents and children have a close relationship.
The Pennsylvania State University study, which included 469 parent-child pairs, evaluated a parent-based intervention to teach children sun safety. The study also assessed family characteristics that contribute to the effectiveness of such programs.
Of the 469 parent-child pairs, 340 were assigned to the intervention group. The parents received a handbook that encouraged them to discuss skin cancer risks with their children and to discourage high-risk behaviors such as tanning and sunbathing.
The other 129 parent-child pairs were assigned to the control group and received no special materials.
The children in the study were 9 to 12 years old. Forty-five days after the parents in the intervention group received the handbook, all the children in both groups were interviewed about their sun-related habits and their family dynamics.
All the children in the intervention group reported fewer sunburns than children in the control group. Among children in the intervention group, those with high levels of compliance (defined as more likely to listen to parents and to obey their rules) had fewer sunburns than those with average or low levels of compliance.
"Since the intervention was parent-based, it follows that if the child feels that the parent encompasses many general positive qualities (e.g. the parent is warm, loving, trusting, and a good listener and shows respect for the child), the child will be more likely to listen to his or her parents about issues such as skin cancer risks," the study authors wrote.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips to parents about children's sun safety.