Lax sun safety in child-care centres

Inadequate sun protection in early childhood centres could be putting children at risk of skin cancer later in life, new University of Otago research shows.

Published yesterday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the study of New Zealand centres, conducted by Wellington campus researchers, found sun protection policies were in place but were frequently inadequate or not enforced.

Lead researcher Mary Duignan said centres often allowed children to wear caps, which did not offer enough protection, or did not properly oversee sunscreen use.

''We also found there was inconsistent role-modelling, such as staff not wearing hats while outside.''

Ms Duignan said there was a lack of sun protection monitoring/regulatory requirements for early childhood centres and staff lacked access to information about the issue.

The prolonged latency period for cancer meant it took a long time to learn whether prevention programmes were effective. However, the evidence suggested they were effective, because excessive childhood ultraviolet radiation exposure increased melanoma risk later in life.

Increasing resources to centres for sun protection would produce long-term savings in costs related to skin cancer, she said.