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Local Nonprofit Encourages Community to Be Sun Smart for Skin Cancer Prevention


Sun smart schools students
Students at a Sun Smart School with their new automatic sunscreen dispenser. Image: Nevada Cancer Coalition

Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month kicks off May 1 with Melanoma Monday, and continues throughout the month to encourage sun safety and skin cancer prevention.

Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit based in Reno, considers the month a key opportunity to spread the message of being “Sun Smart.”

“It’s estimated that one in five individuals will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, some people in their teens and 20s,” said Kristen Power, communications director at Nevada Cancer Coalition. “Precautions like wearing sunscreen, covering up with long sleeves, a hat, or sunglasses, and avoiding peak hours of sunlight, can go a long way to help prevent skin cancer. We don’t need to avoid the sun; we just need to be sun smart when outdoors.”

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the number of Americans who have had skin cancer at some point in the last three decades is estimated to be higher than the number for all other cancers combined. And melanoma has become one of the most common cancers among the nation’s adolescents and young adults. Nevada Cancer Coalition took these statistics to heart, creating a sun safety program for youth to help prevent skin cancer for future generations.

A Sun Smart Nevada assembly at Elizabeth Lenz Elementary School includes a nurse from Saint Mary's Center for Cancer teaching the Reno Aces' Archie how to be Sun Smart.
A Sun Smart Nevada assembly at Elizabeth Lenz Elementary School includes a nurse from Saint Mary’s Center for Cancer teaching the Reno Aces’ Archie how to be Sun Smart. Image: Nevada Cancer Coalition

Sun Smart Nevada, and the youth program Sun Smart Schools, launched in 2015 and is now practiced in nearly two dozen schools in four districts statewide. Sun Smart Schools helps to establish campus sun safety policies, provides free sun safety curriculum for grades pre-K through 12, and offers automatic sunscreen dispensers to schools for recess and other outdoor activities. School sun safety assemblies and guest speakers are also provided, with some in the northern Nevada area featuring Archie from the Reno Aces.

Over-exposure to the sun’s UV radiation and use of indoor tanning devices are the primary causes of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Nevada’s nearly 300 days of sunshine annually and often high altitudes create conditions that necessitate extra caution when enjoying the outdoors.

A good rule of thumb for skin cancer prevention is “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide.” These “5 S’s” are a cornerstone of the Sun Smart Nevada and Sun Smart Schools programs, and encourage people to:

  • Slip on a shirt or sun protective clothing
  • Slop on sunscreen with a substantial SPF rating (30) and both UVA and UVB protection, and re-apply every two hours
  • Slap on a hat, the wider the brim the better
  • Seek shade or shelter during peak sun exposure times, generally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Slide on sunglasses to protect the eyes

For more information on skin cancer prevention and detection, or the Sun Smart Schools program, visit SunSmartNevada.org.

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