Published on September 18, 2013
When high school health teacher Cindi Eggemeyer, from Festus, Missouri, was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 45, she was spurred to share her experience—and some hard-learned advice—with her students. She is doing so with the help of Sun Smart U, a free interactive education program from The Skin Cancer Foundation that teaches students the importance of sun protection and gives them the tools to prevent skin cancer.
“Getting that phone call from the dermatologist was one of the scariest moments in my life, and I don’t want any of my students to go through what I went through,” she says. “I suggest that teachers use Sun Smart U in their classrooms. My current textbook has only three pages dedicated to skin cancer and skin care, and it’s really important that kids find out about them at an early age. They can take this information home, share it with family members, and encourage them to be checked early so we don't lose more people to skin cancer."
UV radiation (from the sun and from tanning beds) is linked to accelerated skin aging and a higher risk of all forms of skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma. Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than non-tanners, 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. That’s why Cindi advises students, “Stay out of tanning beds; it’s not worth it. Stay out of the sun and protect your skin, not only from skin cancer but from wrinkles. My mother lectured me for years when I was younger, and I continued to lay out in the sun and use tanning beds. She is 71 years old and looks 60 because she didn’t get any sun. I have premature aging and wrinkles already and I’m only 45. Please listen to your parents.”
Calling All Teachers!
Between ages 11 and 14, as they spend less time with their parents, children use less and less sun protection. Only 25 percent of 14-year-olds in the US regularly use sunscreen. Want to make sure your students learn the facts about skin cancer prevention? The Skin Cancer Foundation’s free, interactive Sun Smart U education program, for students in grades 6-12, includes a lesson plan complete with a true/false activity, a quiz to help students identify their skin type, real-life video segments of a young woman with melanoma, and an animation explaining sun-smart safety tips to kids. Teachers also have access to free resources such as a downloadable poster for their classroom and take-home materials to share with students’ families.