Sun Pro­tec­tion in Schools

No hat, no play; it’s the age-old rule that has found its way into all Aus­tralian class­rooms. Yet, with more than 2000 deaths from skin can­cer across the coun­try each year, schools must take ad­di­tional mea­sures to pro­tect stu­dents from the sun’s harsh UV

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI

IT is widely known sun safety aware­ness at school plays an im­por­tant role in pre­vent­ing ex­po­sure and re­duc­ing the risk of skin can­cers later in life.

Re­search shows chil­dren have more del­i­cate skin that can burn eas­ily, and UV dam­age ac­cu­mu­lated dur­ing child­hood and ado­les­cence is strongly as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk of skin can­cer in adult­hood.

Aus­tralia’s schools are there­fore in the driv­ing seat to teach chil­dren sun smart strate­gies they can carry through­out their school years and be­yond.

Ac­cord­ing to Can­cer Coun­cil Aus­tralia Skin Can­cer Com­mit­tee chair Heather Walker, sun pro­tec­tion is a joint re­spon­si­bil­ity be­tween schools, stu­dents and their fam­i­lies, with schools hav­ing a duty of care to pro­tect chil­dren from the sun when­ever UV lev­els are three or above.

“UV ex­po­sure and dam­age is cu­mu­la­tive and can’t al­ways be seen,” Ms Walker said.

“Sun­burn is a def­i­nite sign of too much UV reach­ing the skin.

“If schools are or­gan­is­ing out­door events or ac­tiv­i­ties (on or off site), it’s im­por­tant to en­sure UV risk re­duc­tion is on the agenda.

“This in­cludes the pro­vi­sion of shade, en­sur­ing ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing and hats are worn, sun­screen ap­pli­ca­tion is in­cluded and pos­si­bly sun­glasses.”

Re­cent stats show two in three Aus­tralians will be di­ag­nosed with skin can­cer by the time they are 70, while melanoma— the most deadly type of skin can­cer—is Aus­tralia’s third most com­mon can­cer, with more than 12,000 peo­ple di­ag­nosed each year.

An ad­di­tional 750,000 Aus­tralians were also treated for non-melanoma skin can­cers each year, which ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the 45 and Up Study led by the Univer­sity of Syd­ney and Can­cer Coun­cil NSW, was most of­ten caused by sun ex­po­sure dur­ing child­hood.

How­ever, num­bers were slowly im­prov­ing; the Can­cer Coun­cil’s hall­mark ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ cam­paign, in­tro­duced 37 years ago, is be­lieved to have played a large part in driv­ing the im­prove­ment.

“The good news is that melanoma rates in Aus­tralians aged un­der 40 are drop­ping – show­ing that sun pro­tec­tion cam­paigns are work­ing,” Ms Walker said.

“The cul­ture of schools has cer­tainly changed over the decades with more sun safe be­hav­iours be­ing im­ple­mented.

“We all know the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing our skin, how­ever there is still lots of room for im­prove­ment, with one in eight Aus­tralian adults still get­ting sun­burnt each sum­mer.”

Ms Walker said while the melanoma drop un­der 40 was pos­i­tive news, it was damp­ened by the fact skin can­cer rates were on the rise.

The in­crease was largely at­trib­uted to the baby-boomer gen­er­a­tion, who while grow­ing up were un­aware of the risks of UV ra­di­a­tion.

Over the last few decades, sun safety mea­sures have ramped up, and now ex­tend be­yond the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ slo­gan to five S’s in­clud­ing; slip on sun pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, slop on SPF30 sun­screen, slap on a broad brimmed hat, seek shade, and slide on wrap-around sun­glasses.

A re­cent sur­vey showed Vic­to­rian pri­mary schools were lead­ing the way across most of th­ese ar­eas, but needed more sup­port to in­crease sun­screen in the class­room.

The sur­vey found sun­screen avail­abil­ity dropped from 54 per cent of Vic­to­rian schools in 2011 to 34 per cent in 2016.

Ms Walker said sun­screen con­tin­ued to be a chal­lenge for some schools, and it was im­por­tant to have sup­port from fam­i­lies to en­sure ad­e­quate sup­ply was avail­able.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.