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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Without any encouragement from coaches, more than two-thirds of kids at an outdoor soccer camp used nearby tents for shade during rest periods, a new study found.
“Outdoor sports and being active are important for kids to be healthy globally, but we need to balance that with taking reasonable steps to prevent skin cancers,” Dr. Ian A. Maher told Reuters Health.
Maher worked on the pilot study at Saint Louis University in Missouri.
Sunscreen, sun protective clothing and finding shade can all help reduce sun exposure, he said.
“We wanted to know if we put money into these shade structures, would kids use them,” Maher said.
The researchers observed kids at a summer soccer camp in Richmond, Virginia over two weeks. Shade tents donated by Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and the Sun Safe Soccer program of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery were placed within 10 yards of the field.
Kids weren’t told whether they should use the shade tents. They were given frequent five- to 10-minute rest periods during each session.
On average, about 71 percent of kids used the shade tents during rest periods. During the first week, when the weather was sunnier, 98 percent of kids used the tents.
Campers in their mid to late teens were less likely to use the tents than younger kids, according to findings published in JAMA Dermatology.
“The results of this study suggest that if a culture of being 'sunsmart' is put in place that people will use it,” said Dr. Robert S. Kirsner, chief of dermatology at the University of Miami Hospital in Florida. He was not part of the new study.
The Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery offers free shade structures to several schools in the state, and similar programs may be in place elsewhere, he told Reuters Health by email.
The tents cost between $100 and $150 at sporting goods stores, Maher said. Currently, some parents provide the tents at games and there may be one or two available at a tournament.
Ideally, he said, these tents will become a part of standard soccer team equipment, alongside balls and uniforms.
“This is a fairly cheap, common sense step to reduce the amount of sun exposure,” Maher said.
He has had success with a program in Missouri in which local businesses pay for and sponsor the tents.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and the deadliest forms are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“You get the majority of your sun exposure before 18 years of age, when you spend a lot more time outdoors than as an adult,” Maher said.
Soccer, especially, is a very exposed sport, he said. Baseball players wear caps and have dugouts for shade breaks and football players wear helmets, which offer some sun protection.
“Soccer teams should develop a culture of being 'sunsmart' ranging from practicing and playing at off peak sun times, if possible, wearing sun protective clothing and applying and reapplying sunscreen, and if possible using shade,” Kirsner said.
“Coaches, parents, family members and other spectators are also at risk, and thus should also take efforts to reduce excessive sun exposure,” he said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1eFUc6O JAMA Dermatology, online July 30, 2014.