Sun protection during outdoor activities in summer and winter in a Queensland community

Lang, Carolyn Ann (1999). Sun protection during outdoor activities in summer and winter in a Queensland community M.A. Thesis, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lang, Carolyn Ann
Thesis Title Sun protection during outdoor activities in summer and winter in a Queensland community
School, Centre or Institute School of Population Health
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1999
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 83
Language eng
Subjects 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Formatted abstract
Introduction:       Recommended sun protection (and therefore skin cancer prevention) strategies include wearing hats and protective clothing, shade-seeking and sunscreen use. The main aim of this study was to examine sun protection behaviours in an adult sample of the Nambour community in South East Queensland, and to determine how these behaviours vary by type of outdoors activity and by season.

Methods:       This study was nested within the Nambour Skin Cancer Prevention Trial and 300 people were randomly chosen to participate. Data were collected in 1995 for two weeks in winter and summer respectively, and participants used a diary to record their outdoor activities, their clothes and sunscreen use (discretionary users [sunscreen controls in the trial] only). A questionnaire in 1996 provided information about attitudes and knowledge about sun protection and skin cancer.

Results:       The commonest outdoor activities during recorded weeks were outdoor household tasks and car travel. There was no difference in the median total time spent outdoors in summer compared with winter though seasonal differences in the median time spent outdoors in some activities were seen. Women tended to participate in "traditional" female endeavours of shopping, household tasks and walking, whereas men were engaged more often in paid outdoor work and sports.

      Hat wearing (73%) and shade seeking (82%) were the most common methods of sun protection, but two-thirds of people who wore a hat or sought shade did so for less than half their total time outdoors. Frequencies of use of hats and shade were significantly higher in summer than in winter (hats: 75% vs 59% respectively, p=0.001; shade: 85% vs 77%; p=0.016). Sunscreen was used by 40% of those studied with no seasonal difference seen. Long-sleeves were worn by only 17% of people in summer and generally for less than half their time outdoors.

      Significantly more men than women wore a hat in summer (85% vs 69%; p=0.005) and winter (68% vs 48%; p=0.002), and hat wearing increased with age. On the other hand, significantly more women than men used sunscreen (summer: 37% vs 19%, p=0.034, winter: 44% vs 20%, p=0.007) and sought shade (84% vs 72%; p=0.016) (winter only). About a quarter of men but only a tenth of the women wore long sleeves in summer (p=0.007). Sun protection methods and skin type were not associated, although people with skin that 'burns then tans' were more likely to wear a hat and seek shade in summer than in winter.

      There were some significant seasonal differences in use of sun protection for certain activities. Hats were worn significantly more in summer than winter for outdoor household tasks (85% vs 60%), car travel (76% vs 38%), walking (76% vs 42%) and water-related activities (69% and 37%). Shade was also sought more in summer compared with winter for paid work (76% vs 57%), social activities/recreation (82% vs 58%), and water-related activities (70% vs 30%). Significantly more people used sunscreen in winter compared with summer before shopping (92% vs 33%), outdoor household tasks (89% vs 52%) and social/recreational activities (90% vs 10%).

Conclusions:       In this study, based in Nambour, Queensland men were more likely to wear hats than women, and women were more likely to use sunscreen and seek shade. Overall the proportion of time spent outdoors when these measures were employed appeared insufficient to adequately protect the skin from the sun, especially in a sub-tropical winter, though some factors that affected degree of skin protection from the sun were not studied in this project. Health education messages in Australia need to emphasise the use of sun protection year-round and not just in summer. Ongoing research to monitor and evaluate the use of sun protection practices in the Australian population is essential.          

Keyword Skin -- Cancer -- Queensland -- Prevention
Skin -- Care and hygiene -- Queensland
skin cancer
sun protection
outdoor activities
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