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Safe in the Sun 5 May 2004

Health Promotion is once again looking forward to summer with the launch of the 2004 Safe in the Sun Campaign for children and families kindly supported and funded by the Isle of Man Anti-Cancer Association.

Angela Howland, Health Promotion Co-ordinator for children and families, said:

“We are building on the theme introduced with last year’s campaign. This year, new babies, toddlers, nurseries, playgroups, new school starters, and children in the early years who are already at school will be invited to join in the fun.”

Sun awareness is a year round philosophy, but we have a tendency to focus our sun safety thoughts as the days get brighter. Teaching children sun awareness from their earliest years enables them to learn how to protect themselves from sun damage by using simple, inexpensive and effective methods. Most of our skin damage occurs in our early years, when friends and play are the most important things in our lives.

We want summer to be safe and fun for our children: we want them to look back with good memories. By investing some time and effort now we can help prevent skin damage storing up problems for the future.

There are two main types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (both rarely spread and are seldom fatal). Malignant melanoma accounts for around 10% of skin cancers diagnosed in the UK, but is a much more aggressive form of skin cancer, claiming around 1600 lives a year.

Incidence of melanoma rises steadily with age, so is most common later in life, but incidence among young people is also significant - it is the third most common cancer in 15-39 year olds. Those most at risk are people with fair or pale skin who are 40 times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than people with black, brown or olive complexions. Although malignant melanoma is relatively rare in black populations of the UK, globally one in five cases occur in black African or Asian people.

Since 1971, malignant melanoma has seen the largest increase in incidence rates of all major cancers. The number of cases of melanoma more than tripled in males between 1974 and 1999 in England and Wales and more than doubled in females. This increase in incidence is likely to be related to the growing popularity of trips abroad and changing sun exposure behaviour.

Some key messages

  • avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm, even in the Isle of Man!
  • make sure you never burn
  • cover up - wear a t-shirt and sunhat
  • take extra care with children
  • use high factor (15+) sunscreen, and reapply often

Babies, toddlers, and new school starters will receive free packs containing sun hats, and other useful and fun products.

The recognition that natural shade, protective clothing and drinking lots of water can help is an important lesson for small children. Information is also given in the packs about sun protection products and when, where and how they should be used safely.

Lesley Dorward, Director of Health Promotion, said:

“We are delighted to be able to provide this programme, to help educate young children and families about the importance of skin protection to prevent sun damage. Public health education can help cut deaths from malignant melanomas.”

By raising awareness and encouraging people with early curable disease to seek treatment, through Australia’s ‘Slip, Slap, Slop’ programme, more than 90 per cent of melanomas diagnosed in Australia are curable because they are detected before the cancer has spread. Current figures show that although more Australians than Britons are diagnosed with malignant melanomas each year, more Britons than Australians die from the disease.

All of the Safe in the Sun packs will contain a prepaid evaluation card, so if you receive a pack, the Health Promotion Team looks forward to receiving your feedback.

If you are a childminder or you educate your children at home, please contact us if you would like materials to help your children stay Safe in the Sun.

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