Sunscreen Reliance and Cancer

Because people using stronger sunscreens don't feel the effects of sunburn as quickly, they spend more time outside and increase their risk of skin cancer, according to a study that finds even the best prevention isn't foolproof.

The European researchers concluded that "sunscreens may encourage prolonged sun exposure because they delay sunburn," which they said helps explain why previous studies linked sunscreen use with higher skin cancer rates.

"It's not due to the fact that sunscreens are bad. It's because people have a bad attitude, using sunscreens to increase the amount of time they spend in the sun," said Ferdy Lejeune, an author of the study being published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In a study of 87 French and Swiss college students, researchers gave half of them sunscreen with a protection factor of 10 and the other half sunscreen with a factor of 30. The students, who weren't told which lotion they received, went on summer vacations and recorded the amount of time they spent in the sun. Users of the stronger sunscreen spent 25 percent more time in the sun, mostly sunbathing, the study found.

Many Children Killed by Caregivers

The number of young children who die at the hands of parents or other caregivers is underreported by nearly 60 percent, according to a new study.

The study was based on an analysis of North Carolina records, but researchers said the results reflect the situation nationwide because all states use the same system to classify deaths.

Caregivers commit 85 percent of the homicides of children age 10 and under, and strangers are the killers only 3 percent of the time, said Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, lead author of the study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Herman-Giddens, who teaches maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina, said the problem is that all states use the International Classification of Diseases to record deaths, and the system's specifications are flawed. For example, children who are stabbed to death would not be listed as abuse victims because the system says abuse deaths result from a string of events, not an isolated episode, she said.

Her study counted deaths as caused by child abuse -- whether they resulted from a single episode such as a shooting or from a string of events -- if they came at the hands of caregivers, including babysitters and the boyfriends of mothers.

With that system in mind, the researchers analyzed records on the 259 homicides of children 10 and younger in North Carolina from 1985 through 1996. Of those, the state's system underreported the number of deaths from battering or abuse by 58.7 percent, the researchers said. Biological parents committed 64 percent of the killings.

The study suggests that 6,500 more children than national statistics show were homicide victims from 1985 through 1996. The researchers estimated that in 1996, 835 children died at the hands of caregivers nationwide.