The effectiveness of educational programmes in promoting sun protection among children under the age of 18: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2021 Nov;35(11):2154-2165. doi: 10.1111/jdv.17599. Epub 2021 Aug 24.


Childhood ultraviolet radiation exposure has a strong connection to the development of skin cancer in later life. Therefore, there have been numerous sun protection educational programmes targeted to this age group. However, the association between these have not been well established. This systematic review aims to summarize the evidence on, and assess, the effectiveness of educational programmes in improving sun protection among children under age-18. The protocol was prospectively registered in the PROSPERO database (CRD42020178264). Per PRISMA guidelines, bibliographic databases CENTRAL, OVID (EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO), LILACS, trial registries, grey literature and other sources were systematically searched for randomized controlled and clinical controlled trials published between database inception to 9 June 2020. Dual independent review of abstracts and full texts was performed. Eligible studies were assessed for methodological quality using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool. The primary outcome was postintervention scores [standardized mean difference (SMD)] for sun protection (i) knowledge (ii) attitudes and beliefs (iii) behavioural intentions and behaviours. Sidik-Jonkman random effects meta-analysis, sensitivity and subgroup analyses were performed for specific outcomes (sunscreen and sun-safe hat use) which were sufficiently reported. 1350 publications were identified and 24 eligible trials, conducted across 8 different countries, with sufficient aggregate data were included. Small-to-moderate effects of educational programmes were observed across all sun protection outcomes of interest, but negligible effect sizes were demonstrated when specific outcomes were meta-analysed - sunscreen use, SMD 0.18 (95% CI 0.07-0.29; n = 8) and sun-safe hat use, SMD 0.08 (95% CI, 0.00-0.16; n = 6). A promising approach in the future may be to consider targeting children in secondary education with a digitally delivered interactive intervention. Current evidence, however, is insufficient to assess the effects of potential moderators and change in sun protection outcomes is likely not one-size-fits-all. Further research is warranted to direct intervention design and public policy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Skin Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Sunscreening Agents