Baseball caps expose school kids to skin cancer

 

Date: Monday, 23 January 2012

Parents across New South Wales are being urged to send their kids back to school wearing a sun smart hat with recent Cancer Council NSW research showing thousands of students as young as five are being exposed to dangerous UV rays by wearing a cap to school.

One in two children across the state are sporting baseball caps to school despite the fact that they do not provide adequate sun protection, leaving kids’ ears, cheeks and back of neck uncovered and exposed to cancerous UV rays.

Skin Cancer Prevention Manager at Cancer Council NSW, Vanessa Rock, said exposure to the sun’s rays can be very damaging. It is concerning as many areas of the head such as the top of the ears are often overlooked when applying sunscreen.

“This is a very important issue and parents need to know the facts. Common sites of skin damage and skin cancer are the neck, temples, ears, lips, face and nose.

“Baseball caps are not sun smart and they do not provide the right sun protection for our children. When choosing a hat for the purpose of sun protection, brims are best.

“We’re encouraging all parents to ensure their child’s school hat is sun safe and they can do this by replacing their baseball caps with broad brim or bucket style hats to provide them with the best coverage from the sun this summer.

“A hat with a wide brim that extends all the way around the hat will help keep the sun off our children’s faces as well as the neck, ears and back of the head,” she said.

Australia has among the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.^ Two out of three Aussie kids at school today will be diagnosed with skin cancer in later life – some of them with deadly melanomas.

Ms Rock said childhood is an important time for kids to adopt sun protection habits, so developing a healthy sun smart attitude now can help prevent skin cancer later on in life.

“Skin cancer is strongly associated with lifetime exposure to UV radiation and children have delicate skin that is easily damaged by the sun. The good news is that skin cancer is almost totally preventable so creating healthy habits such as applying sunscreen and wearing a broad brim hat at an early age is a great start,” she said.

Cancer Council NSW launched the SunSmart Primary School Program in 2008. The program is a skin cancer prevention strategy to help reduce children’s exposure to UV radiation.

The SunSmart Program is free and assists schools in developing, implementing and maintaining optimal sun protection measures such as scheduling outdoor activities outside of peak UV times, wearing broad brim hats, access to sunscreen, development of curriculum resources and providing information to parents and the community.

“The SunSmart Program is operating successfully in 35% of schools across NSW, but not all schools have adopted the program so we’re asking all parents to help make a difference by simply packing sunscreen in their children’s backpacks and sending them to school wearing a broad brim hat,” Ms Rock said.

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Media contact: Gina Murphy, Media Officer at Cancer Council NSW. Phone: (02) 9334 1428 or email: ginam@nswcc.org.au

^ Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (2004). Cancer in Australia 2001. AIHW cat. no. CAN 23. Canberra, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (http://www.health.gov.au/internet/skincancer/publishing.nsf/Content/fact-2)