The Role of the School
School plays a major role in children’s daily lives. As an institution of learning, it can provide opportunities for developing and reinforcing lifelong positive health habits.
Children spend four to seven hours at school each day–including one to three hours outdoors for recess, lunch, physical education classes, field trips, and after-school activities. Depending on the climate and season, outdoor school activities may result in a significant amount of sun exposure. Research indicates that most people receive as much as 25 percent of their total lifetime sun exposure during their first 18 years.
Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer. With more than one million new cases each year, skin cancer is the most common and preventable cancer in the United States.
Schools can play an integral role in skin cancer prevention efforts by:
- Promoting sun safe behaviors among students and staff.
- Providing sun safe environments, schedules, and activities.
- Teaching sun safety as part of comprehensive school health.
- CDC’s Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer.
Adopting sun safety practices doesn’t have to be costly. In fact, many policy and lifestyle changes can be implemented with little or no cost to the school. Sun safety should be practiced by students, parents, and staff year-round. A sun safe school doesn’t have to develop overnight. Policies and environmental changes may be introduced gradually over time.
Studies have shown that involving family members in skin cancer prevention efforts increases the likelihood that they will adopt and thus model healthful sun-protection behaviors, and also appears to favorably influence the sun-protection behaviors of students.