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UV IndexWe just learned about something called, the UV Index! UV stands for ultraviolet. The UV Index is a scale that tells you how strong the UV rays will be for a day, so you know how much sun protection you will need and what to wear. It is based on a scale of 1 – 11+. Most people think that the UV is high when the temperature is high. That is true but kids need to know that UV can be just as high in April when it is fifty degrees as in August when it is 100 degrees. The only way you can really know how strong the UV intensity is would be by using a UV meter or checking the UV Index. An index of 11 is considered “extreme” and it doesn’t matter what the temperature is. It just means that you have a really high chance of getting a sunburn. An index of 1 would be a very, very low chance of getting as sunburn. By knowing the UV index for the day, you know how much protection you will need; like what to wear and how much sunscreen you will need. The UV Index will be different depending on where you live in the world. So if you want to know what the UV Index will be for where YOU live, you can find it in lots of places. An easy way is to search online. A good website is The UV Awareness Website. It’s pretty cool- you just need to type in your zip code. You can also hear it on TV or the radio in the weather report. You can also find it in your newspaper.
Hayden and I came up with our own UV it is:
EXPOSURE                                           INDEX NUMBER                                                               SUN PROTECTION MESSAGE
Low                                                                           1-2                                                                               Grab hat and you are ready to go
Moderate                                                               3-5                                                                               It’s hot
High                                                                          6-7                                                                                Let’s find a pool
Very                                                                          8-10                                                                             Sizzling: I’m feeling like bacon
Extreme                                                                 11+                                                                               STAY INSIDE AND PLAY A GAME!!

My family and I were at an amusement park yesterday; it was really hot out, and really bright! It was kind of hard to see. Anyways, my mom offered to buy me some sunglasses because she must have seen Hayden with sunglasses up closeme squinting. The store actually had some pretty cool pairs...and since my mom was offering to buy them, I figured why not? So, I chose a pair of black ones that had the lenses that when you look at them, they change colors, but what was really important was the little sticker that was on the lens. That sticker said they were 100% UVA and UVB blocking. [Basically, that means that they block the damaging suns’ rays that can harm your eyes]. It’s really important that when choosing sunglasses, that you choose ones that block both UVA and UVB rays (look for a sticker or some sort of tag on them... if they don’t have one, don’t get them). Sunglasses that cover the entire eye are best because they cover the sides too...they are called “wraparound sunglasses”, (those are the kind I’m wearing).

So, if your mom or someone else ever offers to buy you sunglasses, GET THEM, not only will you look cool, but your eyes will be protected!

Last week, I attended a State house hearing on Massachusetts’s Senate Bill 1229, “An act further regulating tanning facilities.”Summer Interns ME The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation Executive Director, Maryellen Maguire-Eisen, along with a foundation educator, Maura Flynn, testified in support of the bill to the Public Health Committee. Their testimonies were articulate and informative providing statistics on pediatric and adult melanoma distribution, as well as sharing their personal experiences in caring for patients with skin cancer. They stated that research supports that the high distribution of skin cancer cases among teenage girls and young women was due to overexposure to UV rays, including indoor tanning. They suggested that banning teens from indoor tanning was one way to reduce the risk for this deadly disease. Senator Richard J. Ross, inquired if there were solid statistics proving it was indoor tanning that caused skin cancer rather than a more “natural” acquisition. Maryellen responded that indoor tanning was shown in case controlled studies to increase an individual’s risk of melanoma by 76%, however their were no statistics that showed the exact number of cases. Maura also did a great job of educating the committee on how the state regulations outline the inspection process carried out by public health nurses and agents as well as the parental consent requirements.
Glen Asaro, a firefighter, father of five teenagers, and tanning salon owner, provided testimony in opposition of the bill. He made the argument that indoor tanning has many “benefits” for teenagers including improving acne and boosting self-esteem. He said that an under 18 ban would negatively impact his income. After the hearing, Françoise and I asked Maryellen about this acne comment. She explained that the reason UV rays improve acne is that it decreases the body’s immune response in the skin, which reduces inflammation and acne looks better. She said that dermatologists treat psoriasis and eczema with UV light too, but patients are warned about their increased risk for skin cancer.
As, a rising senior at a public high school, I witness the indoor tanning problem firsthand. Teenage girls have gotten the idea that unnaturally colored skin is the key to feeling confident and beautiful. In glamor magazines, writers regard a trip to the tanning salon with any other pre-event grooming practice like a mani/pedi or finding the right dress. While I blame Hollywood and Photoshop for much of today’s teen-confidence crisis, I also feel that a certain amount of blame should be shared with the general population. These girls feel pressured to fit society’s definition of beauty, and are sacrificing their health to achieve it. During her testimony, Maryellen testified that a student had questioned her why one had to be 18 to get a tattoo, yet only 16 to go indoor tanning. She said that the student surmised that indoor tanning must be more dangerous than tattooing. The unfortunate thing is that salon owners do not seem to comprehend the personal health risk of indoor tanning to American teenagers.
Joseph Levy, Executive Director of the International Smart Tan Network, discounted the earlier testimony stating that the skin cancer statistics were inflated and inaccurate. It seemed to me that his testimony was very insulting to the medical professionals. Mr. Levy repeatedly said that these “overstatements” and “misinformation” are causing public confusion regarding the topic of indoor tanning, and that his organization’s intention was to “clear up this confusion”. My personal reaction to this statement was this: a person dying isn’t really confusing. I’m not saying that one visit to a tanning salon or one sunburn will kill you. In fact, I won’t even go so far as to say that UV exposure will harm you. All I will say is that a vast majority of healthcare professionals say that, whether indoor or outdoor, tanning can cause skin cancer. And personally, I recognize that medical professionals know a little more about health than I do.
I learned quite a lot from attending this hearing, and after thinking about all of this information, I have created the central concept of my mini-testimony on the topic: many products or practices are “good for you” (or at least not dangerous) in moderation. However, even the most healthy of these practices, for example, drinking water, can be harmful in excessive quantity (most people don’t know that by drinking too much water in one sitting, one can actually drown inside his/her own body). My point isn’t that you should stop drinking water, it’s that “moderation” has a different definition for every product with which it is associated. UV exposure, in moderation, is healthy. In fact, without Vitamin D, we’d die. However, by going outside into that place called nature with appropriate protection (like sunscreen), we are getting our moderate exposure. Moderation definitely isn’t laying in a tanning bed while being bombarded with UV rays 6 times stronger than those coming from the sun, especially for adolescents whose bodies are still growing and developing. Why risk self-harm for a temporary remedy for the confidence crisis plaguing our society? Don’t endorse choosing “beauty” over health. Instead, be SunAWARE.

I know that I shouldn’t be writing about these things because this is a blog about staying Sun Safe! Since my parents tell me I shouldn’t lie, I have to be honest... I dislike sunscreen, actually, I hate it! It’s not because I want to be tan – I don’t! It’s the feeling that sunscreen brings! To me, I always want it off of me because it feels very weird, sticky, greasy, but I know that is protects me!
Ok, so the truth is out, you now know I hate sunscreen! So what? Who cares that some random 11 year-old hates sunscreen? But I know a lot of you out there probably hate it too! So... what are our other choices? I know my mom won’t let me out in the sun without some kind of protection! So... my choices are:
1.) Wrap trash bags around my whole body and then go outside and play
2.) Only play outside at midnight!
3.) Play outside only on rainy days when the sun isn’t out!
I know those aren’t realistic choices, so seriously, what are some other options?
One really good option is sun-protective clothing! Sun-protective clothing is, well... clothing! Some are specially made to protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays! And some can be plain old regular clothes from your closet! Depending on the fabric your clothing is made of gives you a higher/lower chance of getting sunburned! This is measured by something called UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) – which measures the amount of UV radiation that gets through the fabric and reaches your skin. Some are better than others! Which ones are the best? Here’s a simple explanation from the Skin Cancer Foundation: “The easiest way to test if a fabric can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it - and your skin.”

Clark Twins 1

Welcome! This is gonna be a really cool blog about what it is like to be a kid and sunsafe at the same time. We are just two ordinary 10 year olds (We are twins :D). Our names are Hayden and Logan! We are blogging because nobody ever asks us kids about what we think when we put on sunscreen.... and how much it stinks to be sunburnt.

We are hoping that by blogging, you can share your ideas on how to be safe in the sun! We will share our ideas about ways to have fun in the sun, maybe even show you some really fun bathing suits or creative ways to be outside and not be sunburnt!

Why are we doing this?

Well, we are not only twins, but we have red hair! (Did you know that red heads have a higher chance of getting skin cancer? Do you even know what cancer is? Did you even know your skin could get cancer on it?)

We are two kids who love anything about computers, so we thought that we could use the web as a fun tool to share info about being SunAWARE!!!!!!!

Clark Twins 1



Park Rec UV

When I was in sixth grade at Central Middle School in Quincy, MA, Maryellen Maguire Eisen and the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation came to Mrs. Ahearn’s science class and presented about sun exposure awareness. I listened attentively and answered questions, as I always did in classes and assemblies; however, it wasn’t until I got to see my reflection under a black-light that I really understood what was being said. My face lit up in an electric blue, which worried me. I knew I had freckles and got sunburns, but it wasn’t until seeing the sun damage strewn across my 11 year-old face that I was closer to really getting it.
Today, July 21, 2015, Maryellen and I visited a Scituate kids’ day camp, where she gave a similar presentation to the kids. These second through sixth graders were gathered at cafeteria tables, listening as the presentation began. As Maryellen bounded into science and math questions pertaining to the topics of sunburns, UV rays, peak exposure times, and understanding SPF, the kids got more and more excited about the topic. I was amazed to hear kids as young as eight answering questions about earth’s planetary position and how this affects UV indices throughout the year. Every student who correctly answered a question was tossed one of our SunAWARE UV bead bracelets, which change from white to rainbow colored when exposed to sunlight (at the end, all of the kids received a bracelet). When a few counselors followed Maryellen outside to get their UV photos taken, the kids raced to the windows, climbing onto the counters to see their “magic” bracelets transform. The others went outside with the counselors, all grouping together on their tiptoes to get a good view of their camp leaders’ photos. One young woman joked about how her dermatologist said she needs to wear a wetsuit when at the beach, which was understandable considering her strawberry blonde hair and freckled face. These high school to college aged kids saw a similar kind of image that 11 year-old me saw: highlighted areas in which they have the most freckles. Even these older audience members reacted to the images and presentation, and seemed compelled to interact in answering questions along with their much younger campers.
After seeing the UV photos, everyone reconvened inside to conclude the presentation. All of the kids with July birthdays were called up and given their very own sun protective equipment, including wide brimmed hats and sunglasses. With a few closing questions and answers, the presentation was over and all of the kids got out their lunches. I went around the tables, handing out stickers adorned with our very own mascot, Norbert the dog, telling the kids how cool he looks with his UV protective shades. Although the students were most enthused about their tangible treasures (bracelets, stickers, pencils, etc.), I was most excited to know how much knowledge they had both gained and shared.
For those of us who loved school as little kids, do you remember the feeling of shooting your hand up before the question was even complete, holding it up indefinitely just dying to be called on? You felt like it was entirely detached from your shoulder as you enthusiastically waved it around, leaning your body on the table and even propping the limb up with your other arm, begging to be called on. Watching these kids get excited to answer questions about sun awareness reminded me of those times in school, and the way it felt to be on the other side of this foundation. To them, this presentation was a fun and educational pre-lunch hour, during which they jumped up and down to answer questions and received some unexpected gifts. To me, their enthusiasm is indicative of the progress we are making toward our goal: to educate kids in a fun and interactive manner that embeds lasting knowledge. Preventing skin cancer one child at a time really is possible, with a good group of kids, an amazing presenter, and, of course, some enticing goodies.
Alicia Walker
Summer Intern

When regarding sunburns, most people would categorize the burn as the problem, while the pain, discoloration, and peeling are considered the “symptoms”. This common misconception is present because a sunburn’s short term side effects are tangible and visible, and therefore easily recognizable. However, people fail to realize that sunburns themselves are symptoms of skin damage and indications of increased risk of skin cancer.

The nervous system of the human body produces pain as a communication system. It is the brain’s method of telling the body that there is something wrong, and that special care is necessary. In the same way a broken leg makes us stop walking, a sunburn is the body’s reaction to too much sun exposure, and the pain associated with it is intended to communicate that the skin needs a hiatus from the sun. Just like there are types of breaks or fractures in bones, there are types, or degrees, of burns. While the short term, supposed “symptoms” of first and second degree burns differ, the lasting effects of the two, and, in fact, any burn, are identical.

Burns are classified according to the amount of tissue they affect and how deep they are. A first-degree burn is considered the least serious type of burn because it injures only the top layers of skin, called the epidermis. Skin with a first-degree burn is red, sore, and sensitive to the touch. It may also be moist, slightly swollen, or itchy. When lightly pressed, the reddened skin whitens, which is called blanching. First-degree sunburns do not usually blister or leave a scar.

The side effects of a second degree burn are more severe than those of a first degree, tricking people into thinking it does more damage. Also called partial-thickness burns, these are identified by the penetrated depth of the skin’s layers. This type of sunburn can swell and blister, which may indicate damage to deep skin layers and nerve endings. Second-degree burns may also radiate heat from the skin’s surface and produce fluids from the blisters. In severe cases, an individual with a second-degree sunburn may experience fever, vomiting, dehydration and secondary infection, which often lead to hospitalization.

Although the side effects of varying degrees of burns are vastly different, the lasting impact is the same. UVR has been absorbed, which causes damage to the cell’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which in turn triggers a cellular response such as proliferation, toxic change, mutation or death. Although the degree of the burn impacts the likeliness of spreading to further levels, all types of burns create a biological change in the skin’s DNA; A sunburned skin cell viewed under a microscope, regardless of the layer from which it is taken, looks like a cancer cell. 

Protect yourself and your family by understanding the difference between short and long term symptoms. Be safe. Be SunAWARE.

Alicia Walker

Summer InternSunburn CellsSunburn Diagram

A recent survey of tanning salon operators within the state of Missouri revealed that 65 percent of personnel would allow pre-teens to use their facilities. The findings, originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics (2012), indicated that Missouri was one of 17 states openly permitting youngsters to use tanning beds without a minimum age restriction. How young is too young to indoor tan?

When Patricia Krencil, a mom in New Jersey, was accused of taking her six-year-old daughter to a tanning salon people were aghast. I wonder why, we don’t feel the same shock and horror when teenage girls are indoor tanning for prom? Why do parents give consent for teenagers to indoor tan? Don’t they know that exposure to ultraviolet radiation in tanning beds increases their child’s risk of developing the two deadly forms of skin cancer. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that 6,200 cases of melanoma are caused each year by indoor tanning.

There are now twelve states with under age eighteen tanning bans in America. I believe that legislation is an important part to protecting children from skin cancer. However, I believe that skin cancer can best be prevented with education, and the earlier the better. Efforts are underway by organizations like ours to reach into the classroom with on-going lessons about prevention and early detection. We developed Glenna’s Gift, a video that shares one young women’s struggle with a tanning addiction and melanoma diagnosis, to educate teenagers about the real impact of this disease. We have been fortunate to gain access to school children with our SunAWARE K-12 Curriculum. However, I realize that it will only be when government makes health education in the schools a priority, like obesity and bullying, that all children will learn the important facts about indoor tanning and skin cancer.

I agree with the Society for Public Health Education that health education must become a core subject in our schools. Without this educational priority, health education will continue to be marginalized by schools and eliminated in budgets. Please support the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization vehicle, known as the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). This bill is in final stages and will be going to a vote by the Senate soon. ACT TODAY: Contact Your Senator to Request "Health" be Included as a Core subject in ECAA.

Baby with sunglassesHelen Keller once wrote that “sight must be the most delightful of all senses”. Most of us appreciate good vision but may not always do enough to protect our eyes from overexposure to dangerous ultraviolet radiation (UVR). This overexposure may result in both short and long-tem eye problems. Because children are at increased risk for eye damage secondary to increased exposure related to reflected UV light, they must take extra precautions to ensure eye health.

The iris is the pigmented circular band surrounding the pupil. It is a muscle that controls the diameter and size of the pupil and thus the amount of light reaching the retina. Melanocytes are the cells in the eye that are genetically programmed to produce eye color.  Light colored eyes are associated with greater sensitivity of the skin to UVR, however, they are not an indicator of increased risk for overexposure to the inner eye. It is important to remember that overexposure to UV radiation is problematic for everyone—regardless of eye color.

Severe short-term overexposure to UV radiation can cause photokeratitis, a “sunburn” of the eye. The symptoms include red eyes, excessive tearing, gritty feeling in the eye, and sensitivity to light. Symptoms usually last a few days and damage is rarely permanent but can certainly be uncomfortable in the short term.

Long-term exposure to UV radiation may contribute to cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens. Exposure is based on a number of factors including environmental conditions (e.g., UV Index or intensity, altitude, reflected light, cloud cover) and personal factors such as the extent and nature of our outdoor activities.

The lens of our eye is primarily made up of water and proteins. Overexposure to UV radiation can contribute to the lens drying out and becoming cloudy. The lens focuses light onto the back of the eye or retina and it must be clear in order to work properly. More than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

Some contact lenses contain UV-absorbing filters that help protect against transmission of harmful UV radiation to the cornea and into the eye. However, manufacturers warn that these lenses are not substitutes for sunglasses because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area. Research has not yet demonstrated that wearing UV-blocking contact lenses reduces the risk of developing cataracts or other eye disorders. Therefore, UV-absorbing eyewear continues to be the best method of eye protection. 

Although there are mandatory UV rating systems for sunscreen (SPF or Sun Protection Factor) and clothing (UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor), there is no mandatory system for sunglasses. Therefore, it is imperative that you look for labels that denote UV protection. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends wearing quality sunglasses that absorb ultraviolet light up to 400nm. This translates to blocking out 99% of UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. AOA also recommends using wrap around sunglasses while in bright sunlight and choosing polycarbonate materials that are impact resistant.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that individuals wear sunglasses daily to protect the eye from the long-term effects of UV radiation. Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation (CMPF) recommends wearing a wide brimmed hat along with quality sunglasses to protect the inner and outer eye from sun damage. Sunscreen sticks are great products for use around the outer eye. These stick balms may be applied to the eyelids and do not run into the eye when sweating.

Children should be taught to avoid “unprotected” exposure to UV light and to wear sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen daily. Quality sunglasses are an essential piece of gear for all young boaters to promote eye health. Healthy eyes are so important to our good vision and quality of life that they should be protected at all costs.

Parents often ask me which sunscreen products they should be buying for their children.  Many are aware that UV rays are strongest in late Spring and early Summer and voice concerns about keeping them safe at the beach and lake. The secret to protecting young skin against sun damage using a sunscreen is a two-pronged approach requiring high quality sunscreens AND proper application.

High Quality Sunscreen Selection

High quality sunscreens display three important pieces of information on their product labels: BROAD SPECTRUM, WATER RESISTANT, and SPF. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on sunscreen labeling require manufacturers to substantiate their claims. For example, a BROAD SPECTRUM claim requires laboratory testing that shows protection against 90% of UVA (tanning/aging rays) and 93% of UVB (burning rays). WATER RESISTANT claims now provide a clear timeframe of protection, (80 MINUTES). SPF claims require that the sunscreen provide a proportionate degree of protection against UVA and UVB.  Higher SPF ratings, therefore, provide greater protection against both forms of UV radiation known to cause skin cancer.

Sunscreens come in different formulas, including creams, lotions, gels, sprays, sticks, and powders. Boys usually prefer gels and lotions, while girls often prefer creams. Sprays have gained great popularity, probably because of the ease of application, but they have a downside because of the risk of inhalation. “Sport” formulations and stick balms are great for active children because they usually stay in place when sweating. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are physical blockers of UV rays, are often recommended for children because they work quickly and do not penetrate the skin.  That said, the FDA has added a warning in the Drug Fact Box for all sunscreens stating:  “Do not use on damaged or broken skin.”

Sunscreen products may vary dramatically in price yet offer the same degree of protection and cosmetic appeal. Parents can check out Consumer Report’s sunscreen issue for product reviews including “Best Sunscreens” rated for price and protection reviews and comparisons.

Proper Application

Despite the thousands of excellent sunscreen products available, half of all American children reportedly experience sunburn each year.  This is most likely due to application errors and lack of understanding.   Because the FDA guidelines simply recommend the terminology apply “generously” or  “liberally”, most people do not apply adequate amounts of sunscreen. The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation advises using a handful of sunscreen per application per child.  This is the proper dose or amount needed to cover the entire body surface when wearing a bathing suit. As a general rule of thumb, re-application is advised at least every 2 hours.   Since sunscreen absorbs or reflects UV rays, it is important to realize that the higher the UV Index the faster sunscreen will dissipate off the skin.  When properly used, sunscreen products should be exhausted quickly, not lasting all summer.

Practical Tips

·      Read your sunscreen label, front and back

·      Use the BEENS Acronym to help remember commonly missed areas when applying sunscreen

§  Back of Knees,

§  Eyes,

§  Ears,

§  Nose,

§  Scalp

·      Keep sunscreen products out of excessive heat or direct sunlight by placing them in a shaded area or a cooler.

·      Check out the Environmental Working Group App for sunscreen’s active and inactive ingredients

·      Get a free UV app or UV meter and learn about UV intensity variability

·      Wear sun protection clothing, with a UPF Factor >50+.

·      Always wear sunglasses to protect your inner and outer eye.



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