Learn about: skin cancer, being SunSmart, and how to incorporate sun protection strategies into your day to day activities.

Generation SunSmart

How accessible is sunscreen at your school?

How accessible is sunscreen at your school?

When it comes to effective sun protection behaviour, sunscreen plays an important role because it protects exposed skin such as hands and forearms that can be difficult to protect by other means. Sunscreen also offers protection from reflected UV radiation to the face and ears, something that a hat cannot always achieve! Of course these are all common areas for skin cancers to occur later in life.

Cancer Council’s recent survey Sun protection policy and practice in WA primary schools’ has some interesting findings when it comes to better understanding how sunscreen is used in WA primary schools.

As you can see from the table below, we are witnessing a gradual improvement in the percentage of WA primary schools that now make sunscreen available in ALL classrooms – this really is best practice and an area we hope we will continue to see improvements in. The good news is WA is ahead of the national average in this area (68% in WA compared with 60% nationally in 2011).

SunSmart urges the remaining 32% of WA primary schools who don’t have sunscreen allocated in all classrooms yet to make it a priority in 2015.

Encouragement of sunscreen use 1998 to 2011 in WA primary schools Western Australia (%) Other states (%)
  1998

(n=127)

2001

(n=105)

2005

(n=109)

2011

(n=90)

2011

(n=769)

Actively encourage sunscreen use 86 97 92
Ways sunscreen is encouraged (n=127) (n=105) (n=93) (n=87) (n=704)
Sunscreen available on specific occasions 68 74 82 81 68
Sunscreen available in all classrooms 50 57 62 68 60
Teachers reminded students to apply sunscreen before going outdoors * * 62 64 61
Teachers allowed time for students to apply sunscreen 50 60 50
Parents encouraged to supply their children with sunscreen 56 69 57 54 54
Students encouraged to come to school wearing sunscreen * * * 48 56
Sunscreen available in the front office * * * 35 30
Strategies used to remind students to apply sunscreen * * * 16 10

*not all items were included in all surveys

Cost of sunscreen can be an issue and it seems that some WA schools place more emphasis on making sunscreen available on specific occasions such as sports carnivals and fetes. This is beneficial, particularly for visitors, however students are likely to get more exposure over the year participating in outdoor activities and playing at lunch time than in a single special event.

An effective means of reducing the cost of sunscreen is to ensure that long clothing, hats and shade are available. These strategies mean that sunscreen use is reduced to just enough to cover face and hands.

About half the schools surveyed request students come to school wearing sunscreen. This is a great strategy, particularly in summer months, if students are walking to school or your school does fitness as the first item for the day. However, it is important to remember sunscreen really needs to be reapplied after 2 hours to remain effective. This is why it is important to have sunscreen available in classrooms for reapplication throughout the day.

Although sunscreen is important for protecting the areas of the body that cannot otherwise be covered by clothing, it should be used as the last line of defence and wearing clothing, including rashies when swimming, and hats should be used in conjunction with sunscreen for best protection.

Cancer Council recommends sunscreens that are labelled SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum, water resistant and are used within its expiry date, generally two years from manufacture.

SunSmart Schools receive some free sunscreen with each renewal and qualify for a 20% discount at the Cancer Council shop.