With the nation’s top doctor calling for
more outdoor shade structures to reduce the rate of skin cancer, a new study by
the founder of Sun Safe Soccer reveals nearly two-thirds of children will use
shade tents during soccer breaks without any prompting from coaches.
The study, published in the online July
issue of JAMA Dermatology, was
conducted by Ian Maher, M.D., who developed the Sun Safe Soccer skin cancer
prevention program for the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
While promoting Sun Safe Soccer, Maher
often touts the benefits of shade structures. “However, I was frequently asked,
‘Will the kids use them?’ The fact was at the time there really wasn't much
observational data on the sun safety practices of youth athletes. We needed
evidence to see if shade structures were a useful investment,” he said.
His study took place during a soccer
camp in Richmond, Va. Sun Safe Soccer and Virginia Commonwealth University
donated shade tents, which were set up around soccer fields for two weeks.
Coaches were told to not encourage the players,
ages 8 to 18, to use the tents during rest breaks. According to the study,
approximately 71 percent of children sought out shade under the tents, with
older kids less likely than the younger ones to use them. Hotter temperatures
during the first week of the study prompted 98 percent of players to use the
“This study reinforces that shade
structures are a worthwhile investment to protect young athletes against
excessive UV exposure during outdoor sports activity. If you provide shade
structures, the kids will use them,” said Maher.
The results of this study reinforce one
of the five recommendations in Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak’s report on skin cancer issued July 29. A call-to-action against the rising rate of skin
cancer, the report encourages communities and policymakers to provide outdoor
shade structures. Other recommendations include doctors encouraging patients to
wear sunscreen and schools educating students on the dangers of indoor tanning.
“Many public athletic fields are
stripped of shade structures to allow for multipurpose use,” said Maher. “Our
study shows that these relatively cheap shade structures will be utilized. Plus
they're quite easy to set up and take down. This would be a step in the right
direction to help reduce the rate of skin cancer.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of
cancer diagnosed in the United States, with one in five Americans developing
some type of skin cancer over the course of their lifetime, according to The
Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, can spread
to other organs in the body.
Maher is driven to help prevent skin
cancer from his experiences as a dermatologic surgeon.
“I developed Sun Safe Soccer in 2010 after
seeing the everyday toll that skin cancer takes on people’s lives,” said Maher.
Outdoor sports such as soccer can often be a primary source of sun exposure for
many children, raising their risk for developing skin cancer later on in life, he
The free Sun Safe Soccer program teaches
coaches how to educate players about the steps that they need to take to
protect themselves from the sun during games, such as applying sunscreen before
putting on shinguards. Coaches can sign up on Sun-Safe-Soccer and download free educational materials. Maher
said he hopes the program will foster a healthier soccer community, reduce
instances of skin cancer and save lives.
“We have a skin cancer epidemic in our
prevention is the only way we're going to beat this epidemic. That being said, shade is only one piece of the
puzzle along with sunscreen and sun-protective clothing,” said Maher.