B.C. pilot project aims to shield preschool-age children from sun exposure – BC

The BC Cancer Agency aims to prevent skin cancer before it starts by protecting preschool-age children from sun exposure.

The agency has launched a pilot project that is the first to regularly evaluate shade in outdoor play areas for children aged three to five.

It will assess the impact of installing shade structures in playgrounds and other outdoor areas in spring, summer and fall on UV exposure.

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For six months, the participants will wear devices to measure both the level of UV exposure and their physical activity.

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Researchers say reducing sun exposure in early childhood is critical and can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

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“We know that early childhood is a sensitive window of time for the long-term harmful effects of UV radiation,” said Maryam Darvishian of the BC Cancer Agency.

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“Chronic UV exposure makes you look older than you need to and, more importantly, it causes skin cancer, so there are short- and long-term side effects if you’re in the sun too much unprotected,” BC dermatologic oncologist Harvey Cancer added Lui.

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The BC Cancer Agency predicts 1,345 British Columbians will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer, this year. By 2031, that number is expected to rise to more than 1,700.

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“We can change that by asking people to change their behavior when exposed to the sun,” Lui said. “We don’t tell people to live in a cave. You just have to be a little more careful.”

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Having access to outdoor shade structures can make that a little easier.

While the findings of the study aren’t expected to be released by the end of September, the hope is that such structures will become the norm at nurseries, playgroups and even playgrounds.

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