Skin cancer prevention messages can be more effective when tailored to specific audiences such as outdoor workers, racial and ethnic groups, younger women, and men. Community leaders in schools, workplaces, non-profits and health care systems can form alliances to better spread these important messages.
One common public misperception is that sunscreen is the only form of sun protection. The public needs to understand that sunscreen is just one part of an overall sun protection strategy that includes seeking shade during peak midday hours and wearing sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and other sun-protective clothes. Where the messages are communicated makes a difference as well. For example, signs in locker rooms, at parks and in other recreational areas will reach the public right before or during sun exposure.
Sun safety education in schools is a critical area in skin cancer prevention. It’s important to reach children when they’re young, while they’re forming lifelong health habits. Arizona and New York both have skin cancer education laws requiring that students learn this important information. More states need to pass these laws. Parents can start by lobbying their school districts to bring curricula like The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Sun Smart U to their schools.
On school visits, Dr. Ellen Frankel, a pediatric dermatologist, dresses up in a bright red clown costume with red face paint to help students understand the severity of sunburns. She also packs along a handful of grapes and raisins to illustrate the sun’s damaging effects. “When that grape sits in the sun it becomes a shriveled raisin,” she says to kids. For teens, she hammers home the message that tanning does not lead to beauty. She tells sun-worshipping teens to look at the sun-damaged skin of the local fishermen, who work in the coastal towns of her native Rhode Island. “If you don’t think tanning is dangerous, go look at the fishermen,” she says. “Their skin looks like shoe leather.”
Published on August 27, 2014