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Overcoming Barriers

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School District Concerns:

Common Misconceptions about Sun Safety:


School district concerns:

Our district has never done anything about sun safety. Why start now?
Skin cancer rates are rising in the U.S., while rates for other cancers are generally decreasing. UV radiation is recognized as a carcinogen. With the recognition of sun safety as an important health concern and a nation-wide focus on increasing the health and safety of schools and students, now is an opportune time to begin a district-wide sun safety program.

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Is UV radiation a liability issue?
Yes. School districts have taken steps to minimize harmful substances such as asbestos, radon and lead on school grounds. Ultraviolet radiation is also harmful and is recognized by Congress, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies as a known human carcinogen.1 Some teachers and staff can be considered outdoor workers. UV can be considered an occupational exposure for some. Why not educate your staff about their responsibilities related to sun exposure and sun protection. Be proactive. Educating staff about sun safety and creating policy to help reduce exposure to UV radiation can help reduce possible liabilities in the future.
1Report on Carcinogens. Eleventh Edition; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program.

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We can’t afford to implement a sun safety policy with our tight budget.
Policy change doesn’t have to be expensive and it can start small. Your district might start implementing a sun safety policy by simply posting advisories in schools and district offices about effective sun safety behaviors. Over time, curricula can be altered slightly to include sun safety lessons into different content areas, staff trainings can be implemented, and landscaping can be enhanced on school campuses to create more usable shade for students. Grant funding for shaded school areas is sometimes available. A sun safety policy can fit into your budget and your time. Start small and add new measures each year. To learn more about simple sun safe changes districts can make, visit the What Is Sun Safety? page.

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If students develop skin cancer later in life, it will mostly be the result of harmful behavior they engage in outside of school. Why should the district teach sun safety?
Students learn many things at school that they use outside of school such as healthful nutrition, physical activity, and social skills. Teaching sun safety in schools gives students skills to promote healthful living, especially since children spend a lot of time outdoors. Because there is a large amount of misleading information about sun safety that is communicated socially and within the media, students may not learn correct or healthy sun safe habits outside of school.

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Most of the students in this district have dark skin. Is sun safety policy necessary?
Yes. While the risk is greater for fair-skinned students, exposure to UV rays is a health risk for everyone. Acknowledge diversity and address sun safety measures that can help all students reduce overexposure to UV rays.

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Common misconceptions about sun safety:

Isn’t “some sun” good for students?
Yes. UV rays trigger the manufacture of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D helps the body maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Vitamin D is also important for strong bones. It’s possible for a light-skinned person to get adequate vitamin D by spending 10-15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen twice each week with his ot her face, arms, hands, or back exposed to the sun. After initial exposure, sun protection, such as cover-up clothes and sunscreen, is important to prevent over-exposure and sunburn. Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as fish and fish oil, fortified milk and margarine, egg yolks, liver, Swiss cheese, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin-mineral supplements are another source of vitamin D. Recommendations on dietary supplementation and sun protection may change as evidence emerges regarding the relationship of sun exposure and vitamin D production. Check back here or read the Sun Sentinel eNewsletter for updates. To read more about vitamin D, see the Vitamin D Fact Sheet developed by the National Institute of Health.

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Doesn’t a tan offer protection from sunburn?
A tan provides a small amount of sun protection, but skin damage is occuring during tanning. The physical sign of a tan is the skin’s way of trying to protect itself from further skin damage. Tanning is harmful, and puts a person at risk for certain skin cancers by accelerating skin damage. Instead of relying on a tan, it is important to protect the skin by wearing protective clothing, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.

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I’ve heard that sunscreen is actually harmful and it can cause skin cancer.
There is no evidence that demonstrates that using sunscreen puts anyone at greater risk of developing skin cancer. It is important to remember, however, that no sunscreen is a perfect barrier against UV rays. All sunscreens let some UV rays through to the skin. Applying sunscreen only lengthens the amount of time you can spend in the sun without burning. In addition, no sunscreen lasts all day. Sunscreen should not be used to prolong your time in the sun.

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The students only spend a little time outside during recess and physical education classes. That is not enough time to suffer damage from UV rays.
For most children, spending a small amount of time in the sun each day won’t result in much visible skin damage such as sunburn. However, one of the largest risk factors for developing skin cancer is lifetime exposure to UV rays. Most people get 25% of their lifetime sun exposure before they are 18. By teaching students how to take precautions at school when they are exposed to the sun, not only will they be more protected when they are at school, but they will also be more likely to practice positive sun safe behaviors at home.

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