The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation (CMPF) began delivering skin cancer prevention education to school children from kindergarten through grade 12 in 2003. Its founder Maryellen Maguire-Eisen believed that children needed to have a better understanding of UV intensity and sun protection. In her career as an oncology/dermatology nurse practitioner, she witnessed an alarming change in the profile of the typical skin cancer patient. Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, was striking younger people and the numbers for all incidences of skin cancer were rising steadily. The real tragedy is that a vast number of skin cancers are preventable and easily treated when detected early.
In the eight years since its inception, the CMPF has enrolled over 100 participating schools in Massachusetts. Its team of health educators has directly taught the SunAWARE Curriculum to over 250,000 school children. Using a skin analyzer, SunAWARE educators show upper level students what their skin looks like beneath the visible surface. “Seeing their accumulated skin damage is a powerful motivator for using sun protection measures while they are still young,” says Ms. Maguire-Eisen.
The SunAWARE curriculum has four major strands: Understanding Ultraviolet Radiation, Understanding Skin Sensitivity, Proven Methods of Sun Protection, and Skin Cancer Recognition and the SunAWARE Action Steps (seen below). There are four instructional levels: K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The curriculum at each level is aligned with the Massachusetts Frameworks in Health and Science.
The SunAWARE curriculum for all four levels is available for download and use free of charge from CMPF’s website, http://www.melanomaprevention.org/. It is located on the Resource Center page under the SunAWARE program button. Ms. Maguire-Eisen encourages parents, teachers, health educators, school administrators, community health and wellness personnel to visit the website and use the SunAWARE Program. “Our goal is to make the SunAWARE Program available to everyone as an international resource for sun safety education,” says Ms. Maguire-Eisen. “Our ultimate goal is to protect all children from the senseless devastation of skin cancer.” Be Safe. Be SunAWARE.
5 Action Steps of SunAWARE
Avoid unprotected exposure to sunlight, seek shade, and never indoor tan.
Wear sun protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses year-round.
Apply recommended amounts of broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sunburn protection factor (SPF) greater than or equal to 30 to all exposed skin and reapply every two hours, or as needed.
Routinely examine your whole body for changes in your skin and report concerns to a parent or healthcare provider.
Educate your family and community about the need to be SunAWARE.