State Department of Health Announces Skin Cancer Prevention Initiative in Elementary Schools

Emphasizes Importance of Protecting Skin from Overexposure to the Sun

ALBANY, NY, May 11, 2006 - The New York State Department of Health today announced that more than 100 elementary schools statewide have been awarded Ultraviolet (UV) bracelets as part of the Department's skin cancer awareness and prevention initiative aimed at reaching youth.

The UV color-changing bracelets will help increase children's awareness of the dangers associated with skin cancer and to educate them about the health risks associated with exposure to the sun and its UV rays. The bracelet changes color when a child wearing one is exposed to ultraviolet rays as a way to remind him/her of the precautions that should be taken to limit their exposure to UV rays.

"We all enjoy participating in outdoor activities as the weather turns warm, however the hot and humid months also bring the potential for excessive sun exposure, which could result in the development of skin cancer," said State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D.,M.P.H., Dr.PH. "We strongly encourage New York's schools to educate their students on ways to protect themselves from excessive sun exposure. The UV bracelets are a tool to assist in these educational efforts."

A primary goal of this initiative is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer among youth by reducing their exposure to the sun through the promotion of sun-safe policies and activities. The UV bracelets were awarded to elementary schools that submitted an application and policy assessment check list that detailed their current and planned sun-safe activities and policies.

The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are usually not life-threatening. A third type of skin cancer is melanoma, which can cause the most serious health problems and is often fatal if not identified and treated in the early stages of growth. Approximately 7,500 people die annually in the United States from this deadly cancer. There are approximately 55,000 new cases of melanoma reported nationally every year, with more than 2,000 of those cases occurring in New York State.

It is critical that youth and their parents are well informed. It takes just a few blistering childhood sunburns to double the risk for skin cancer as an adult. The majority of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of eighteen. Up to ninety percent of skin cancer cases are attributed to high ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The good news is that simple steps can be taken to help prevent skin cancer, especially when they are initiated early in life.

Protective behaviors that will greatly reduce the risk of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation produced by the sun include:

  • Avoiding direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's ultraviolet rays are strongest. Burns can occur even on cloudy days;
  • Seeking shade during peak hours;
  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats;
  • Applying full spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen, SPF 15 or greater, and applying it to skin fifteen to thirty minutes before going outdoors and again after swimming or physical activity;
  • Wearing sunglasses that block ninety-nine percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation.

For more information on ways to help prevent skin cancer, please visit the Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov.