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

Generation SunSmart

What’s wrong with caps?

As a SunSmart School, your school would have a legionnaire, bucket, or broad-brimmed hat as part of your uniform. If your staff, parent groups or students want to introduce a cap, here’s how to reply:

Skin cancer rates in Australia

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. About two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. Almost 770,000 new cases of BCC (basal cell carcinoma) and SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) are treated each year. BCC can develop in young people, but it is most common in people over 40. SCC occurs mostly in people over 50. More than 12,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year, with the highest incidence in people over 40, especially men. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in people aged 15–29.1. Most skin cancers occur around the head and neck area – areas exposed when wearing a cap.

Evidence suggests that childhood exposure to UV radiation contributes significantly to the development of skin cancer in later life. Educating school children and reducing their UV exposure is expected to have a major impact on the future incidence of skin cancer in Australia.

Over-exposure during adulthood also increases the risk of skin cancer. It is equally important that all teachers and staff members are aware of their own occupational UV exposure and protect themselves by adopting a combination of sun protection when UV levels reach 3 and above.

Protect your head

As mentioned, most skin cancers occur around the head and neck area. Therefore, it makes sense to protect this area.

A study by Peter Gies et al (2006) tested common hat styles to determine how much UVR protection was provided. He concluded that The broad brimmed hats and ‘bucket hats’ provided the most UVR protection for the 6 different sites about the face and head. Legionnaire’s hats also provided satisfactory UVR protection while the caps did not provide UVR protection to many of the facial sites.

Basically, baseball style caps do not protect the parts of the body that are most susceptible to skin cancer. The images below say it all!

If your school community wants to introduce a cap, let us know and we’ll provide support.

Don’t wait until the horse has bolted

Once your school changes the dress code to allow caps, they are hard to remove. Parents buy them, kids wear them, and everyone thinks that the cap is preventing skin cancer (when it’s not). If the uniform shop purchases caps, there may be financial implications to consider before a new sun protective hat is introduced.

Plus, your school will not be eligible to be a member of the SunSmart Schools program if caps are allowed.

Our top tips

1. Have the expectation that everyone wears a sun protective hat. That includes students, teachers, other staff, student teachers, and visiting PE or sport providers. It not only protects their own skin, but it sends the right message.

2. Explain the health benefits of wearing the school hat to students. Sometimes kids think of wearing a hat as a rule to be enforced, and don’t see the connection to their health.

3. Above all, keep caps out of the school uniform.

Gies HatsHats v caps

Gies, P., et al., Measurements of the UVR Protection Provided by Hats used at School. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 2006. 82: p. 750–754.