Sun protection provided by regulation school uniforms in Australian schools: an opportunity to improve personal sun protection during childhood

Turner, Denise, and Harrison, Simone L. (2014) Sun protection provided by regulation school uniforms in Australian schools: an opportunity to improve personal sun protection during childhood. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 90 (6). pp. 1439-1445.

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Abstract

Childhood sun exposure is linked to excessive pigmented mole development and melanoma risk. Clothing provides a physical barrier, protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Extending sleeves to elbow length and shorts to knee length has been shown to significantly reduce mole acquisition in preschoolers from tropical Queensland. We used publicly available uniform images and guidelines from primary schools in Townsville (latitude 19.25°S, n = 43 schools), Cairns (16.87°S, n = 46) and the Atherton Tablelands (17.26°S, n = 23) in tropical Australia to objectively determine the body surface proportion covered by regulation school uniforms. Uniforms of nongovernment, large (≥800 students), urban, educationally advantaged schools with comprehensive sun protection policies covered more skin than those of government schools (63.2% vs 62.0%; P < 0.001), smaller schools (63.4% vs 62.3%; P = 0.009), rural (62.7% vs 61.9%; P = 0.002) and educationally disadvantaged schools (62.8% vs 62.3%; P < 0.001) with underdeveloped sun protection policies (62.8% vs 62.2%; P = 0.002). Overall, SunSmart and non-SunSmart school uniforms covered identical body surface proportions (62.4%, P = 0.084). Although wearing regulation school uniforms is mandatory at most Australian primary schools, this opportunity to improve children's sun protection is largely overlooked. Recent evidence suggests that even encouraging minor alterations to school uniforms (e.g. slightly longer sleeves/dresses/skirts/shorts) to increase skin coverage may reduce mole acquisition and melanoma risk, especially in high-risk populations.

Item ID: 37730
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: school uniforms; sun protective clothing; sun protection policies; body surface area; clothing standards; tropical Australia
Additional Information:

This publication was included as Chapter 4 of the following PhD thesis: Turner, Denise (2017) A cross-sectional analysis of the sun-protective behaviours and policies at primary schools in north and far north Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

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ISSN: 1751-1097
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2015 03:31
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111716 Preventive Medicine @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920412 Preventive Medicine @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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