Sun Exposure at School


*To whom correspondence should be addressed at: School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia. Fax: +61-7-4781 5880;


Abstract. There is strong evidence that sun exposure during childhood and adolescence plays an important role in the etiology of skin cancer, in particular cutaneous melanoma. Between the age of 6 and 18, most children and adolescents will spend around 200 days per year at school and may receive a substantial fraction of their daily total solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure while at school. This study estimated the average daily erythemally effective dose of 70 grade 8 students from a high school in Townsville during 5 school days in July 1998. Through UV measurements of shade locations at the school and a combination of frequency counts and a questionnaire of grade 8 students, it was possible to determine the fraction of solar UVR reaching under the shade structures during lunch breaks and routine outdoor activities. Also, a routinely operating UV-Biometer provided the annual variation of the daily dose that was used to calculate exposure levels for the 70 students. Our results suggest that up to 47% of the daily total dose fell within the time periods where students were outdoors during school hours. For students not seeking shade structures during the breaks (which usually was the case when involved in sport activities such as basketball or soccer), the average daily dose could have been as high as 14 SED (standard ery-themal dose). Using results from the questionnaire of 70 grade 8 students, their average annual dose while at school was 414 SED or 2 SED per schoolday. However, the distribution of average daily erythemal effective dose per grade 8 student over the whole year showed that on 31 % of all school days in 1998, this dose was exceeded. Because most previous attempts to change arguably poor sun-protective behavior of young Australian children and adolescents at school showed little success, one way of decreasing the amount of harmful UVR reaching unprotected skin is the more careful design of shade structures at schools.