Healthy Youth & Schools
School Sun Safety
The risk of developing skin cancer will be substantially reduced for children who learn to “Block the sun, not the fun!” Developed by dermatologists from The Los Angeles Metropolitan Dermatological Society, Sun Safety for Kids is dedicated to reducing the incidence of skin cancer through teaching and promoting sun protection to children.
A sun safety school policy covering sun protection for the children and employees can significantly reduce skin cancer risk, especially when the policy is comprehensive and it strongly encourages sun-safe behaviors. Look at Sun Safety for Kids sample school policy for direction.
Why is sun safety necessary?
Because skin cancer is so preventable! Aside from avoiding tobacco smoke to prevent lung cancer, how many other types of cancer can you think of for which the risk can be greatly reduced by making a simple behavioral change? The vast majority of skin cancer is caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, particularly during childhood. The incidence continues to increase, and presently one American dies every hour from this disease. If children learn how and why to protect themselves from the sun, they will enjoy a much lower risk of developing skin cancer.
Schools’ Role & Responsibility
Though parents have a prime responsibility to teach sun-safe behavior to their children, schools are automatically involved in this issue because UV radiation strikes children, as well as personnel, when they are outdoors on the school campus. Children can, and sometimes do, get sunburned at school. This is significant because childhood sunburns are linked to the development of melanoma, the most deadly of the common skin cancers. Schools could not only teach children the principles of sun safety but could also adopt policies aimed at protecting students and staff from the sun’s harm while they are at school and school-sponsored events.
Make the policy comprehensive
An effective sun safety policy should address at least the following issues:
- Covering up
- Hats, long clothing, sunglasses
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Classroom instruction
- Shade options
- Employee education and training
Make it effective
California students, by law, are already “allowed” to wear a hat and long clothing, and to use sunscreen, for outdoor activities at school. Whether in California or elsewhere, to seriously prevent skin cancer, create a policy that aims to encourage or strongly encourage sun protection among students and personnel.
- Make it relevant
- UV Season
The strength of UV radiation varies with the time of year. While sun safety should probably be a year-round concern for the lightest individuals, for most areas of California it makes sense to heighten the focus on sun safety, or to enforce sun safety policy, between March 1 and October 31. This is the time span during which the UV index routinely reaches or exceeds moderate levels. For more northern latitudes, April 1 to September 30 might be appropriate, while for southern locales, such as Miami, year-round sun safety would be best.
Confirm the relevant dates for your area by checking the annual UV index record. It is provided in graphic format by the National Weather Service for numerous cities.
Source: Sun Safety for Kids, The Los Angeles Metropolitan Dermatological Society