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

Promotes Skin Cancer Protection for Elementary Students

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 11, 2008) – The New York State Department of Health today kicks off the National SunWise with SHADE poster contest to raise awareness about skin cancer in children. Each year New York receives more than 2,100 reports of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer that can be fatal.

All New York State students in kindergarten through Grade 8 are eligible to enter the poster contest. All entrants will receive an ultraviolet bracelet that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light as an easy way to learn about skin cancer and UV light. Students' posters will be judged by the SHADE Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to skin cancer prevention, for creativity, originality and promotion of sun safety to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Contestants will compete for prizes that include a $50 U.S. Savings Bond, a $100 gift certificate to a bookstore, and a sun UV station for their school to track real time UV data that will be announced May 1, 2008.

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 age 18. Up to 90 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.

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

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;
  • Apply full spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen SPF 15 or greater to skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors and again after swimming or perspiring;
  • Wear sunglasses that block 99 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 http://www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/cancer/skin/.