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Dermatology. 2002;204(3):202-8.

Use of sunscreens in families living in Switzerland.

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Laboratory of Oxidative Stress and Aging, University Hospital, CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland.



The hazards due to sun exposure are well known. Many recent studies have emphasized the protection against the harmful effects of the sun by the use of sunscreens and, moreover, by staying in the shade and wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats and sunglasses. Switzerland has one of the highest rates of skin cancer induction in Europe and the incidence of melanoma in Switzerland is constantly increasing with an incidence of 10-12/100,000 inhabitants/year. Interestingly, some studies have evoked the possibility that sunscreen use can increase the risk of melanoma by increasing overall sun exposure.


In this context, the aim of our study was to estimate the amount of sun exposure of children, and their parents, living in Switzerland and to give a description of how they protect themselves against sun irradiation. Questionnaires were provided to pediatricians in every state (canton) in Switzerland and were given to families coming for consultation.


A total of 328 forms including 1,285 individuals were returned from most of the cantons in Switzerland. The majority of the Swiss families had 2 children under 16 years of age with middle-aged parents (30-45 years) and a central European skin type (light skin of type II-III, brown or blue eyes, and brown to blond hair). An important sun exposure was noted even though the population seems to be conscious of the associated dangers. Sunscreens were the first-line defense against sun exposure with clothing and shielding oneself from the sun not being highly used. Moreover, sunscreens tended to be misused with most people applying them at the beach or swimming pool (instead of 15 min before exposure) and few applications throughout the day.


Prevention should imperatively be emphasized for lower overall sun exposure as sunscreens are primarily used at the beach and not in routine daily exposure. In addition, it is agreed that prevention campaigns would be better directed towards children because up to 80% of detrimental sun exposure occurs during childhood.

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