Health Department Kicks Off Poster Contest to Teach Kids About Skin Cancer

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 29, 2009) – The New York State Department of Health is partnering with the SHADE Foundation to kick off the Annual "SunWise with SHADE" National Poster Contest.

Each year, New York receives more than 2,100 reports of melanoma, a form of cancer that can be fatal. The SHADE Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to skin cancer prevention, works with the state Department of Health to raise awareness in elementary school children about skin cancer.

All New York State students in kindergarten through grade 8 can submit one poster that depicts how to reduce overexposure to the sun. Each entrant will receive an ultraviolet (UV) bracelet that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light, as a reminder of the relationship between skin cancer and UV light exposure.

Posters will be judged by the SHADE Foundation based on creativity, originality and how well the poster promotes sun safety. Contestants will compete for prizes that include a $50 check, a $100 bookstore gift certificate, and a sun UV station for their school to track real-time UV data. The grade winners as well as the New York State overall winner will be announced on May 1, 2009.

The New York contest winner will be entered into the national contest to compete for a trip to Walt Disney World. The overall state winner will also be used in state Department of Health public education materials in 2009.

Children are especially vulnerable to dangerous sun exposure through blistering childhood sunburns that can double their 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 affects and can be removed through minor surgery. Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer, with 52,000 new cases reported nationally every year, and is the cause of 7,800 deaths each year 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 occur even 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, applying it to skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors and again after swimming or perspiring.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation;
  • Avoid tanning at tanning salons, which can increase your risk of skin cancer.

For more information on the poster contest and how to prevent skin cancer please visit the Department's Web site at