State Health Department Kicks Off Poster Contest to Raise Skin Cancer Awareness

Promotes Skin Cancer Protection for Elementary Students

ALBANY, New York March 9, 2007 - The New York State Department of Health today kicked off the "National SunWise with SHADE" poster contest to raise awareness in children about skin cancer. Each year New York receives over 2,100 reports of Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, which can be fatal.

All New York State elementary students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 are eligible to enter the poster contest. Student posters will be judged by the SHADE Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to skin cancer prevention, for creativity, originality and their promotion of sun safety to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Contestants will compete for prizes that include a $50 U.S. Savings Bond, two tickets to a Yankees baseball game and a $500 school grant from SHADE that will be announced May 1, 2007. All entrants will receive a special bracelet that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Children are especially vulnerable to dangerous sun exposure through blistering childhood sunburns that can double the risk for skin cancer as adults. The majority of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of eighteen. Up to 90 percent of skin cancer cases are attributed to high ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, simple steps can be taken to help prevent skin cancer, especially when they are initiated early in life.

The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma that typically do not cause serious health affects and can be removed by minor surgery. Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer with 52,000 new cases and 7,800 deaths reported each year nationally.

To reduce exposure to the sun and the risk of skin cancer:

  • Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's ultraviolet rays are strongest. Burns can even occur on cloudy days;
  • Seek shade during peak hours;
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts with long pants whenever possible;
  • Use full spectrum (UV-A and UV-B) sunscreen SPF 15 or greater applying it to skin fifteen to thirty minutes before going outdoors and again after swimming or perspiring;
  • Wear sunglasses that block ninety-nine percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
  • Avoid tanning at tanning salons that can increase your risk for skin cancer.

For more information on the Department of Health poster contest and how to prevent skin cancer please visit the Department's Web site at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/cancer/skin/.