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Correspondence: Dr Polly Nyiri, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction The World Health Organisation has identified schools as key players in the global effort to reduce the rising incidence of skin cancer. Singapore lies 70 miles from the Equator, with one of the world's highest ultraviolet (UV) index scores. It is a multi-ethnic society, with many expatriates. Children in Singapore are likely to be exposed to high levels of UV radiation, and represent a variety of skin types. This study aimed to assess sun protection measures in schools, the frequency of reported sunburn in schoolchildren of different ethnic groups, the level of parental and school concern about sun exposure, the sun-protective measures currently in place, and the parental and school support for public education and "sunsmart" school programmes.
Methods Questionnaires were sent to principals and parents of primary schoolchildren in 20 local and eight international schools in January 2003.
Results The majority of children in all ethnic groups in Singapore were reported to suffer to some degree from sunburn during their first ten years. Over 50 percent of parents and head teachers predicted an increased risk of skin cancer in their children. Some protective measures were in place. But teachers and parents were concerned, and most favoured the promotion of more active measures.
Conclusion The reported incidence of sunburn among Singaporean school children is higher than expected across all ethnic groups. Given the current level of sun protective measures in place, more could be done to educate parents and schools regarding "sunsmart practice", and reducing their future risk of skin cancer and eye damage.
Keywords: cataract, melanoma, school children, skin cancer, sunburn
Singapore Med J 2005; 46(9): 471-475