Most US Schools Not Sun-Safe

Children at Risk for Skin Cancer

New York, NY (April 28, 2011) -
During a typical school day, children receive a significant amount of sun exposure, in spite of the fact that just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's risk of developing melanoma later in life. Additionally, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are associated with 90 percent of all nonmelanoma skin cancers.

However, there is little evidence that school districts are taking appropriate steps to protect children from solar UV radiation. The most recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 60 percent of schools never or rarely scheduled outdoor activities to avoid times when the sun was at peak intensity. The same study found that fewer than 47 percent of schools encouraged students to apply sunscreen before going outside. Since the FDA considers sunscreens over-the-counter drugs, schools commonly refrain from promoting their use and in fact sometimes sunscreens are banned.

With skin cancer incidence in the US jumping from one million to 3.5 million cases a year in the latest measurements, the need for sun safety policy and education in schools is more urgent than ever. The time to learn about and start practicing sun protection is in youth, when safety behaviors can be established for a lifetime.

"Parents, teachers and school administrators should work together to help children develop good sun protection habits, the best method of skin cancer prevention," said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation.

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following recommendations for creating sun safety policies in schools:

Approaching Your School

    • Meet with the principal and ask her or him to establish a sun safety committee within the school administration.
    • Raise the issue at a meeting of your school's Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and propose that a sun safety committee be formed within the PTA.
    • Work with school administrators or officials to add a sun safety policy draft to the formal agenda of a board meeting.
    • Ask a dermatologist, pediatrician, or the school nurse to assist you at any pivotal meetings to make your case for sun safety.

Sun Safety Policy Issues

The following issues should be addressed by the sun safety committee:

    • Hats- Students should be allowed to wear a particular style or color of hat when outdoors. If children refuse to wear a broad-brimmed hat, a baseball cap is better than no hat at all.
    • Long clothing can be the most effective method of sun protection, so children should be encouraged to cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants.
    • Sunscreen should be exempted from over-the-counter drug bans, and every child should bring it to school and be encouraged to use it.
    • Sunglasses- Wraparound sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of the sun's UV rays effectively shield both eyes and the surrounding skin.
    • Classroom instruction on sun protection
    • The UV Index (a daily measurement of the sun's intensity)
    • Shade provision
    • Scheduling of outdoor activities
    • Staff sun protection
    • Communication with parents

About The Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit