Sun Protection Group Highlights 2009's Top Skin-saving Developments

SunAWARE, a sun protection advocacy group, has announced its top 10 sun care advancements for 2009.

New fabrics, laws, jingles, technologies and campaigns are among the 10 top 2009 initiatives that raise public awareness about skin cancer and significantly improve its prevention and detection, according to SunAWARE, a not-for-profit Minneapolis-based sun protection advocacy group.

"Every year, more than a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in this country. Every 61 minutes, someone dies of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer," said Mary Barrow, executive director of SunAWARE. "Our criteria in highlighting these initiatives were simple: Does it raise public awareness about the dangers of UV exposure and does it contribute in a real way to preventing and detecting skin cancers?"

Barrow also noted that at least one top 10 initiative is from overseas. "Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery," she said. "Our hope is that U.S. public health officials might consider adopting these initiatives to increase our safety in this country."

Here are the top 10 skin cancer awareness initiatives.

1. Tanning bed ban. Members of the Howard County (Maryland) Board of Health banned the use of tanning beds by anyone under 18. It is the first law in the nation that prohibits minors from using tanning beds. Peter Beilenson, the Howard County health officer, says, "People under the age of 35 who are exposed to indoor tanning have a 75% increased risk of skin cancer and the younger you are exposed to indoor tanning the greater your risk of potentially fatal melanoma."

2. The road to healthy skin tour. During 2009, the Skin Cancer Foundation organized dermatologists from around the country to provide free skin cancer screenings. The Road to Healthy Skin Tour traveled from Massachusetts to California and Washington to Florida. Dermatologists participating in the 2009 tour identified 1,201 skin cancers, including 77 suspected melanomas.

3. AAD free skin cancer screenings. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) celebrated its 25th year of offering free skin cancer screenings with several new initiatives in 2009: offering an e-card to notify others about the screenings; an alert to notify you when a screening is being held within 50 miles of your community; and a new video describing what to expect in a skin cancer exam. Since 1985, member dermatologists have conducted 1.9 million free skin cancer screenings and detected 188,000 suspicious lesions, including more than 21,500 suspected melanomas.

4. Sun sounds. Beach music might not appear to have much to do with preventing skin cancer. However, Australians, who have waged an aggressive war on skin cancer in their country, recently introduced "Sun Sounds." Loud speakers, commonly used on Australian beaches to warn of sharks, now play five second jiggles throughout the day to warn bathers to cover up. Twenty different sun sounds jingles were produced for the initiative.

5. New zinc oxide sun protection fabric. For years, the emphasis on sun protection has been sunscreen. Now, health professionals stress that sun protection clothing is the first line of defense against dangerous UV rays. They recommend wearing sun protection clothing as well as applying full-spectrum sunscreen to exposed areas. Manufacturers are meeting the challenge. One Minneapolis-based sun protection clothing manufacture, introduced a new fabric this year that incorporates the well-known sun protection properties of zinc oxide into lightweight and breathable fabrics.

6. Don't fry day. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day as "Don't Fry Day," encouraging everyone to practice sun safety habits at the traditional start of the summer. The National Council is a consortium of 45 organizations. Their members heavily promoted Don't Fry Day on Web sites, press releases and other materials. As a result the story appeared in dozens of newspapers and on television and radio.

7. NMA bi-monthly research calls. The National Melanoma Alliance (NMA) renewed its sponsorship of a bi-monthly research and advocacy teleconference call open to anyone with an interest in melanoma research. The hour-long teleconferences, begun in 2008, feature melanoma researchers from major institutions across the nation. Anyone is eligible to sign-up for the teleconference by filling out the form on the Alliance's website. In addition, the Alliance posts audios of previous calls, which are available for downloading.

8. New diagnostic technology. A new company pioneered an innovative new diagnostic technology that significantly reduces the time for patients to get feedback from dermatologists about suspicious skin lesions. The software is used to create a thorough patient profile, and it uses three types of extremely high-resolution digital imaging, which are then provided to a panel of dermatologists for review. Two reports are prepared, one for the patient and one for a designated physician. The technology is important because the average current wait time to see a dermatologist ranges from just over one month to four months in various areas of the United States and successful outcomes with of skin cancer rely upon prompt diagnosis and treatment. The new technology will return a report to the patient within 10 days, often sooner, and someone from the company will call if the technology detects anything suspicious.

9. The International Agency for Research on Cancer. Part of the World Health Organization, in June the agency concluded that individuals increase their risk of melanoma by 75% by using tanning beds and sunlamps before the age of 30. These findings prompted the agency to reclassify all radiation, including UVA, UVB and UVC as carcinogenic to humans. The finding sparked a worldwide debate on tanning bed usage, especially for minors, and has led to the consideration and adoption of new laws restricting their usage.

10. Teen and pre-teen education. Maryellen Maguire-Eisen, RN, MSN, executive director of the Children's Melanoma Prevention Foundation in Hingham, Massachusetts, was awarded a Gold Triangle from the American Academy of Dermatology for her books, Pretty Prom: Your Skin is Pretty Too and Lake Vacation. These books, aimed at educating teens and pre-teens about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, are especially relevant now in light of new research findings that show tanning beds are popular with significant numbers of teens and pre-teens.

For more sun protection advice and educational resources, visit SunAWARE at

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