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The Prevent Cancer Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the Skin Cancer Institute (SCI) at the Arizona Cancer Center. The mission of the SCI is to prevent and cure skin cancer in Arizona. Arizona has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the nation: about 1,000 Arizonans are diagnosed with melanoma each year and several thousand develop non melanoma skin cancer. The funding is being used to assess the impact of the Hats On! program, that provides sun safety tools and education to parents of babies in the form of a sun safe baby hat gift bag. The gift bag includes a sun safety educational brochure that provides information on how overexposure to the sun affects young skin and increases risk of skin cancer and a sun safe hat designed for babies up to 2 years-old, made of durable UPF 50 sun protective fabric, with a wide brim and an attractive, playful design.

Skin cancer is primarily caused by exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), and much of this damaging sun exposure occurs in childhood. There is evidence that sunburned and overexposed skin early in life increases risk of skin cancer later in life. Arizonans are at risk as we enjoy over 300 days of intense sunshine each year. Skin cancer risk can be reduced by avoiding overexposure to damaging UVR; however, studies show that behaviors such as avoiding the sun, wearing sun protective clothing and applying sunscreen are declining in Americans, including parents of infant children. Parents’ knowledge and use of sun safety behaviors directly translate into how they protect their young children from sun overexposure.

The Hats On! Program which has provided 3,000 gift bags to parents will be evaluated for its impact on parents’ sun safety knowledge and attitudes, and their sun safety practices for their babies (and themselves). This study was made possible by the support provided by the Foundation’s 2011 Community Grants program. Feedback from parents has been very positive. Comments include:

  • “We love the hat. The brim is much larger than anything we have found for sale.”
  • “I would not have purchased a hat on my own.”
  • “(I) learned several things– I plan to use them in the future.”

The study will provide gift bags in an outpatient pediatric clinic to 175 families with babies ages 9 months of age and younger who come for a well-check visit. “In our intense Southern Arizona sun, it is critically important that parents provide adequate sun protection for their newborns and infants. Our ‘Hats On!’ program gives parents the information and tools to keep their children safe from the sun’s harmful rays,” said Heather Hiscox, SCI Program Development Coordinator and Hats On! Program Director. “With the Prevent Cancer Foundation funding, we can now work to determine if all of those gift bags made a difference.”