News Release: School of Public Health

Feb. 17,  2009

Sun-Safe Pool Policies May Foster Healthier Sun Safety Behaviors Among Pool Staff

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The social environment at swimming pools appears to be related to sun safety behaviors of outdoor pool staff, according to a report published in the February 2009 issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Dawn Hall, MPH, and colleagues at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, studied data collected from the Pool Cool skin cancer prevention program to analyze the associations among the pool environment, social norms and outdoor lifeguards' and aquatic instructors' sun protection habits and sunburns in 2001 and 2002. Demographic information was also noted.

A total of 191 pools participated in the program during one or both summers. There were 699 participants in 2001, and 987 participants in 2002, ranging in age from 15 to 60.

More than 80 percent of respondents reported habitually wearing sunglasses, and more than 60 percent reported wearing sunscreen regularly. However, less than half reported regularly using a shirt with sleeves, staying in the shade, or wearing a hat while exposed to the sun.

"Healthy sun protection behaviors among one's peers will likely have a positive influence on an individual's sun safety habits," says Hall. "Furthermore, sun-safe pool policies also foster healthier sun safety behaviors among the staff while they are at work and create a work environment conducive to developing healthy sun protection habits."

Skin cancer accounts for almost half of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, and there is both direct and indirect evidence that sun exposure can cause skin cancer. Outdoor lifeguards and aquatic instructors are particularly at high risk for overexposure to the sun because they are young and because they work outdoors, Hall and co-authors note.

Sunburn tends to be common among young adults in high school and college due to poor sun protection habits. About 50 percent of aquatic staff had a history of severe sunburn, and almost 80 percent had experienced sunburn the previous summer, according to the study.

"Interventions in the workplace may be effective for reducing sun exposure and improving sun protective behaviors of outdoor workers," say Hall and colleagues.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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