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Common Misconceptions about Sun Safety

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.


“Some sun” is 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 to 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.


Having a tan will keep students from getting sunburnt.
A tan provides a small amount of sun protection, but skin damage is occurring 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.


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.


School personnel don’t have the time or the resources to implement sun safety practices in the classroom.
Just like with any other health or safety initiative, when a school prioritizes an issue, there are steps that can be done to work to improve the school environment.  Many of those steps can be taken without any impact on the budget. It doesn’t cost anything to implement a policy to promote hats, protective clothing and sunscreen. Your school might start implementing a sun safety policy by simply posting advisories in schools about effective sun safety behaviors, and announcing the daily UV index. Over time, curricula can be altered to include sun safety lessons within existing lesson plans, staff trainings can be implemented, and landscaping can be enhanced on school campuses to create more usable shade for students.

Promoting Sun Safety in California Elementary Schools.

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