The review appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. The incidence of one type -- melanoma -- is rising, due in part to increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Staying in the shade, keeping out of the midday sun and wearing protective clothing can reduce ultraviolet exposure and reduce risk of skin cancers, according to the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical studies on a topic.
The Task Force, an independent, nonfederal group, found there was good evidence for the effectiveness of teaching children how to protect themselves from the sun.
"Virtually any primary school can be an appropriate environment in which to carry out sun-protection programs," says lead study author Mona Saraiya, M.D., M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Task Force members combed through 33 studies and found approaches that attempted to change the behavior of children in kindergarten through eighth grade (or their caregivers and teachers). These included some combination of lectures, videos, interactive CD-ROMs, skits, brochures, posters and material incorporated into science classes that moved the children to wear hats, shirts or long pants.
"Skin cancer education programs can be integrated into existing learning situations and support policy and environmental interventions," Saraiya says.
Younger children did better than adolescents.