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National sun prevention campaign targets Latino schoolchildren with bilingual message on importance of sunscreen usage

LatinaLista — Though it’s snowing and blustery this week in most parts of the country, summer is just a few weeks away and so is the end of school.

Fernanda Garcia-Villanueva, 8, has sunscreen applied before the annual run/walk for patients and their friends and families at The Children's Hospital in Aurora

That means kids will be playing, swimming and hanging outside more than ever. And if this summer is anything like past summers with record temperatures and heatwaves, it means that children who are outside are in danger of not just getting dehydrated but suffering from sun burns that research shows can increase their chances of contracting melanoma, skin cancer, in the future.

While everyone would like to think that slathering kids with sunscreen is as natural as buckling up in cars, the truth is it’s still not second nature to some people — notably, Latinos. A recent study found that Latinos were least likely to take serious the threat of skin cancer by not using sunscreen.

If the adults aren’t using it, then chances are the children, especially older ones, might not be using it either.

To help make Latino children aware of the importance of using sunscreen, dermatologists and staff from the Loyola University Health Science Center in Chicago will be delivering the message in both English and Spanish to students of a local elementary school in Cicero, Illinois.

The Loyola speakers will be delivering sun-safety tips, as well as, sunscreen and UV color-changing bracelets so kids and adults know when it’s time to slather up again.

“Skin cancer may go undiagnosed in children because kids and parents don’t think to look for it,” said Rebecca Tung, MD, director, Division of Dermatology, LUHS. “Reaching out to children of all skin types with information about skin cancer prevention is especially important since melanoma is frequently more aggressive in Latinos, African-Americans and Asians.”

The presentation by Loyola dermatologists is part of the national sun prevention initiative Time Out, Protect Your Skin sponsored by the Women’s Dermatologic Society. Unlike most programs educating students about sun prevention, Time Out, Protect Your Skin is an all encompassing program.

Time Out, Protect Your Skin will incorporate sun-safety education, outreach and materials into the school’s curriculum through an ongoing collaboration. The program provides sun-safety training for faculty and administration. It also funds the construction of a shade structure that will be installed on the school’s grounds.

Sun prevention is more than just a one-time lesson as long as children play outside under an unforgiving sun. It has to become a life habit and recognized that like a seatbelt, sunscreen usage can save lives.

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