Schools sign up to prevent skin cancer

5 year old Bercem applies sun cream to fellow pupil Jack 5.

Every primary school in Liverpool is signing up to a scheme aimed at preventing young people from the risks of getting skin cancer later in life.

Over the last 25 years, rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have risen faster than any other common cancer and it is now the second most common type among people aged 15-34.

The number of cases in Liverpool have more than doubled since 2001 – up from 47 to 99 – and the latest figures from 2014 show there were 14 deaths in the city.

Sun exposure in the first 15 years of life contributes significantly to the lifetime risk of skin cancer. Young people spend almost half their childhood at school and are often outdoors during peak UV hours from 11am-3pm.

Now Public Health Liverpool has teamed up with national charity Skcin to implement its Sun Safe Schools scheme in all 127 primary schools in the city.

All schools commit to the comprehensive use of sunscreen, sun hats and role models to promote their use as well as providing shady areas outdoors and lessons on staying safe in the sun.

Broadgreen Primary School have become the latest Liverpool school to become accredited, with pupils taking part in a Sun Safe assembly and showing off their sunhats.

Broadgreen Primary School receives its Sun Safe certificate

Dr Sandra Davies, Director of Public Health in Liverpool, said: “It is really important that young people get into the habit of protecting themselves when they are out in the sun because their skin is very sensitive but the consequences of getting burned may not become apparent for many years.

“We know that people are aware of the importance of putting on sun cream when we go on holiday or to the beach, but studies show that we don’t necessarily do it when going about our daily routine, and for children this is when they his is when they are playing out at the hottest time of the day in the playground.

“We are hoping that by working closely with schools we can make sure that young people get into the correct routine which they will continue through their lives, as well as spreading the message of being sun safe to the rest of their family.”

Marie Tudor from Skcin said: “The Accreditation has been operating for three years and we have had amazing success since its launch.

“Schools in Liverpool are a particular target for us as the area has one of the highest incidence rates of skin cancer in the UK.

“The accreditation helps schools to fulfil their duty of care to implement a sun safe policy. A total of 86% of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV and are therefore preventable.

“Education is the key to tackling the rising statistics and Skcin are delighted Liverpool City Council are supporting our Sun Safe Schools Accreditation and its nationwide roll out.

“By planting the seeds of sun safety at a young age together we can help educate and change behaviours and ultimately save lives.”

Primary schools can register to gain their accreditation at www.sunsafeschools.co.uk and a competition to win free sun cream for schools is on offer until 30 June.

Almost nine out of ten skin cancers can be prevented by:

• Avoiding over exposure to the sun
• Avoiding burning of the skin (red to blistering)
• Covering up using clothes, hats and sunglasses
• Seeking shade at the hottest parts of the day (11am-3pm)
• Using sunscreen – SPF 30+ for both adults and children

Last year, Cancer Research UK and Liverpool City Council joined forces and signed the first ever skin cancer pledge, promising to work together to raise awareness of skin cancer. The city has also previously lobbied government calling for the licensing of sunbed salons, and run a high-profile campaign – the Look to Die For – educating people about the dangers of using sunbeds and encouraging the use of fake tan instead.