News & Press

MRF Statement on Sunscreen in Schools

Statement from the Melanoma Research Foundation

Earlier this week, NBC’s Today Show ran an important story about the use of sunscreen in schools and the difficulty many parents have in getting schools to apply sunscreen to their children. The story is the result of an idea the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF), the nation’s largest independent organization devoted to melanoma, pitched to NBC several weeks ago. Originally supposed to run during Melanoma Awareness Month we received word yesterday that NBC wanted to produce the story immediately for air today, April 18th. In the course of quickly pulling the story together, one of our advocates, Christine Conwell, rearranged her schedule to sit for an interview. While Christine’s important perspective didn’t make the final story, we thank her for sharing her experience working with her son’s school in order for him use sunscreen throughout the day. Christine’s story illustrates the unfortunate but common lack of understanding about both how dangerous melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is and how young people are more at risk for developing this disease. 

As many as 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure, which can come from either the sun or tanning beds. Schools take precautions to keep children inside when it is too cold or hot, or if there’s rain or snow. The same concern should be used when it comes to protecting children from the sun’s harmful rays. Research indicates that just one blistering sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life. However, studies have shown that regular use of sunscreen reduces a person’s chances of developing melanoma. When schools do not allow students to apply sunscreen before going outside for recess or gym class, they are putting those children at risk for developing melanoma.

Additionally, many young people, especially teenage girls, routinely visit tanning beds in order to get a tan to feel more beautiful. In reality, exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%. Young people who regularly use tanning beds are 8 times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them. Melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in people ages 15-29.

The MRF routinely hears stories from parents like Christine, who want to protect their children but increasingly face policies that do not recognize melanoma as a public health issue facing the United States. The MRF encourages local lawmakers across the country to consider policies that would allow children to remain protected from UV rays while at school. Additionally, we urge everyone to take a comprehensive approach to prevent melanoma by seeking shade whenever possible, wearing protective clothing, avoiding direct sunlight between 10am-4pm and using broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day. Please visit www.melanoma.org for more information.