Cornwall has the highest level of UV in the UK and the highest skin cancer rate in the country. Between 2003 and 2005 cases of malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) in Cornwall rose by 18% (Royal Cornwall Hospital, 2007). A major cause of skin cancer is over exposure to the sun during adolescence and childhood years. Britain now has more deaths from skin cancer than Australia. (Royal Cornwall Hospital, 2007). A SunSafe policy ensures a healthier working/teaching environment with long term health benefits. Schools are encouraged to minimise the exposure of staff and students to excessive dangerous UV radiation.
Pupils spend on average 200 days per year at school, that's 5 days a week during peak UV times (11-3) . Whilst at school many spend a lot of time outside (walking to and from school, waiting for buses, break, lunch, queueing for lessons, trips, sports days etc.) The one cancer that is easily avoidable by being SunSafe UV (ultraviolet) radiation comes from the suns rays. It burns and damages the skin. In some areas in Cornwall children and adults can be burned in under 10 minutes due to high levels of UV. These times are generally between 11am and 3pm, primarily between the months of May – September.
Potentially schools can have a major impact on the level of sun exposure students encounter due to the following reasons:
- For 5 days a week during the high risk period (11am – 3pm) children are at school
- Childhood and adolescence (school years) has been identified as the crucial years for sustaining sun damage due to high levels of UV.
- Through education schools can play a significant part in changing behaviours and attitudes
- The SunSafe policy can be incorporated in to the curriculum or kept as a separate policy.
Also please follow the link to Cornwall's Healthy School Plus sunsafety section
Schools have a major responsibility to initiate and implement skin cancer prevention strategies in the interests of students’ health and long term healthy environments
(Sun Smart 2005)