Highlighting 2009’s Top Sun Protection Activities
Every year more than a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in this country and every sixty one minutes
someone dies of melanoma. Yet skin cancer is one of the most preventable of diseases.
This year saw advances in the fight against skin cancer on a number of fronts. In selecting the top ten activities, we sought to pinpoint those that significantly raised public awareness about skin cancer and those which contributed in a real way to skin cancer prevention and detection.
At least one of the initiatives are from overseas. In that case, we can only hope that imitation will be the sincerest form of flattery…that is, that U.S. public health officials consider adopting it to increase safety in our own country.
- Tanning Bed Ban – Members of the Howard County (Maryland) Board of Health banned the use of tanning
beds by anyone under 18 years of age. It is the first law in the nation that prohibits minors from using tanning beds. Peter Beilenson, the Howard County Health Officer says: “People under the age of 35 who are exposed to indoor tanning have a 75% increased risk of skin cancer and the younger you are exposed to indoor tanning, the greater your risk of potentially fatal melanoma.”
- The Road to Healthy Skin Tour — The Skin Cancer Foundation organized dermatologists from around the country to provide free skin cancer screenings. The Healthy Skin Tour traveled from Massachusetts to California and Washington to Florida. Dermatologists participating in the Road to Healthy Skin Tour identified 1201 skin cancers, including 77 suspected melanomas. For information on the next Road toHealthy Skin Tour go to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.
- AAD Free Skin Cancer Screenings – The American Academy of Dermatology celebrated its 25th anniversary of offering free skin cancer screenings with several new initiatives: an ecard to notify others about the screenings; an alert to notify you when a screening is being held within 50 miles of your community; and, a new video describing what to expect in a skin cancer exam. Since 1985, member dermatologists have conducted 1.9 million free skin cancer screenings and detected 188,000 suspicious elsions, including more than 21,500 suspected melanomas. To receive an alert, view the video or send an ecard follow this link to the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Sun Sounds – Beach music might not appear to have much to do with preventing skin cancer. However,
Australians, who have waged an aggressive war on skin cancer in their country, recently introduced “Sun Sounds.” Loud speakers, common on Australian beaches to warn of sharks, now play five second jingles throughout the day to warn bathers to cover up. Twenty different sun sounds jingles were produced for the initiative.
- New ZnO Sun Protection Fabric - For years, the emphasis on sun protection has been sunscreen. Now,
health professionals stress that sun protection clothing is the first line of defense against dangerous UVR rays. They recommend wearing sun protection clothing as well as applying full-spectrum sunscreen to exposed areas. Manufacturers are meeting the challenge. Coolibar, Inc., a Minneapolis-based sun protection clothing manufacturer and a SunAWARE sponsor, introduced a new fabric this year. Its ZnO SUNTECT fabric incorporates the well-known sun protection properties of zinc oxide into light-weight and breathable fabrics. (Incidentally, Coolibar was just awarded a Gold Triangle from the American Academy of Dermatology for its School Hat Program for teachers and students.)
- Don’t Fry Day — The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day,” encouraging everyone to practice sun safety habits at the
traditional start of the summer. The National Council is a consortium of 45 organizations. Member organizations heavily promoted Don’t Fry Day on websites, press releases and other materials. As a result, the story appeared in dozens of newspapers and on television and radio.
- NMA Bi-Monthly Research Calls – The National Melanoma Alliance renewed its sponsorship of a bi-monthly research and advocacy teleconference call open to anyone with an interest in melanoma research. These hour long teleconferences, begun in 2008, feature melanoma researchers from major institutions across the nation. Anyone is eligible to sign-up for the teleconference by filling out the form on the Alliance’s website.
- New Diagnostic Technology – A new company, Molesafe, pioneered an innovative diagnostic technology that significantly reduces the time usually involved in receiving feedback from a dermatologist on a suspicious lesion. Molesafe software creates a thorough patient profile and incorporates three types of extremely high resolution digital imaging which is then provided to a panel of dermatologists for review. Two reports are prepared, one for the patient and one for a designated physician. The technology is important because the average current wait time to see a dermatologist ranges from just over one month to four months in some areas of the U.S. Molesafe returns a report to the patient within ten days, often sooner and someone from the company will personally call if the technology detects anything suspicious. (SunAWARE has no relationship with this company.)
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer – Part of the World Health Organization, in June, the agency concluded that individuals increase their risk of melanoma by 75% by using tanning beds and sunlamps before the age of 30. These findings prompted the agency to reclassify all radiation, including UVA, UVB and UVC, as carcinogenic to humans. (Previously, it had been though that only UVB radiation caused cancer.) The finding sparked a world-wide debate on tanning bed usage, especially by minors, and has led to the consideration and adoption of new laws restricting their usage.
- Sun Protection Education for Teens and Pre-Teens – While we dislike the appearance of self-interest, we want to mention Maryellen
Maguire-Eisen, RN, MSN, executive director of the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation in Highham, MA. In addition to her work with the foundation, Maryellen found time to co-write two books, “Pretty Prom: Your Skin is Pretty Too” and “Lake Vacation.” These books are aimed at educating teens and pre-teens about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure and are especially relevant now in light of new research demonstrating the very high usage of tanning beds by minors.