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B.C. study probes if more time in the shade as a child prevents skin cancer in adulthood

Researchers will install shade structures outside and track preschool-age children for six months while they play
Seven-year-old Eva Mailhot Maclean plays in a playground in Montreal, Saturday, May 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Could having access to more shade from the sun shield children from getting skin cancer as adults?

Researchers at BC Cancer Agency are aiming to find out as part of a new pilot project that will track preschool-age children for six months while they play outside.

They aim to avert skin cancer before it starts in kids ages three to five.

“Early childhood is a sensitive time window for the long-term harmful impact of UV radiation,” said Maryam Darvishian of BC Cancer Agency.

Shade structures will be installed in B.C. playgrounds and other outdoor areas through spring, summer and fall. Child participants will wear devices that measure their physical activity and UV exposure.

READ MORE: South Surrey teen battling skin cancer has miracle wish granted

According to the agency, this year alone 1,345 British Columbians will be diagnosed with the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma.

By 2031, that number is expected to soar to more than 1,700.

“Chronic UV exposure will make you look older, sooner and it will cause skin cancers. There are short-term and long-term side effects from being in the sun too much,” said BC Cancer dermatologic oncologist Harvey Lui.

Results of the study could help daycare centers, preschools and schools around the province impose early UV exposure reduction measures.

The study’s findings are expected to be released in late September.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s not always a big, ugly mole’: B.C. doctor urges sunscreen, shade to prevent skin cancer

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