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Kristi Wilcoxson-Smith of the Utah Department of Health’s Cancer Control Program shares news about their Prevent Cancer Foundation funded grant project, “Play it Sun Safe, Utah!.” The 2012 project partnered with soccer leagues as a way to encourage children, parents and coaches to take part in sun safety that can help prevent skin cancer.

The Utah Cancer Control Program (UCCP) works to decrease cancer incidence and mortality throughout Utah, with an emphasis on cancers that can be prevented or detected in early stages. The program also provides support for Utah’s community cancer coalition, the Utah Cancer Action Network.

play it sun safe program materials 2

“Play It Sun Safe, Utah!” materials teach soccer coaches & players to enjoy fun in the sun safely!

Utah consistently has one of the highest melanoma incidence rates in the country. There are many reasons for this, including its largely fair-skinned population, high altitude and outdoor lifestyle.

“Just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of skin cancer later in life,” said Kristi Smith, health program specialist for the Utah Department of Health. “By teaching sun safety at an early age, children can develop lifelong habits that help prevent skin cancer.”

In 2012, the UCCP received a Prevent Cancer Foundation community grant to begin a new project called “Play It Sun Safe, Utah!” The project closely followed Preventing Skin Cancer: Education and Policy Approaches in Outdoor Recreation Settings found in The Community Guide (a resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for evidence-based program recommendations about what works to improve public health). The “Play it Sun Safe, Utah!” aimed to educate coaches, youth, and parents participating in local recreation soccer leagues on the dangers of the sun and the need for sun safety. There are two main components of the project:

  1. A sun safety reminder that included sun safety tips with a picture of the project spokesperson, Chris Wingert, a professional soccer player for Real Salt Lake.
  2. A training manual which provided coaches with information on the need for sun safety along with short lessons to use with their team.

The project was implemented in three soccer leagues in 2012. A total of 139 teams with 1,566 children received project materials, and an additional 300 children received the sun safety reminders. Children who returned surveys that they completed with their parents were entered into a prize drawing.

Following the project work with the soccer leagues, the UCCP made the educational materials available to local health departments statewide for implementation with their local recreation soccer programs. As a result, over 2,000 additional Utah children are expected to receive materials that will help them enjoy fun in the sun safely and reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.