MAIDA Vale Primary achieved a 20-year milestone this week as the longest-running SunSmart school in the Perth Hills-Midland region.
More than 200,000 West Aussie kids have grown up with a reduced risk of skin cancer over two decades of the campaign, according to Cancer Council WA.
Regional education officer Mikala Atkinson said exposure to damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation in childhood and adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer later in life.
“The good news is the message appears to be getting through and it’s saving lives – for people aged under 40, the rates of the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, has dropped from 13 cases per 100,000 people in 2002, to about nine in 2016,” she said.
Many primary schools shifted from baseball caps to broad-brimmed hats, resulting in a rise from 34 per cent in 1998 to 93 per cent of schools in 2016 with sun protective hats for students.
Some schools changed their uniform to move away from crewneck short-sleeved shirts to alternatives with collars and longer sleeves.
Principal Darren Greaves said Maida Vale Primary joined the program in 1999 to encourage students to adopt lifelong-healthy habits.
“Since I came on board at Maida Vale Primary, it has been great to see the students and staff taking care and protecting themselves from the sun, it really shows that the messages are getting through to those that participate in the program,” he said.
There are 27 primary schools registered in the SunSmart Schools program in Midland and the Perth Hills, but only one high school in the state.
“High schools often leave the responsibility of sun protection up to students, but we’d love to see Midland and Perth Hills high schools take steps to improve sun protection – increasing shade and having a broad brimmed hat available to students is a good start,” Ms Atkinson said.
Check if your school is SunSmart at www.generationsunsmart.com.au.
The Cancer Council SunSmart reminder:
Slip on protective clothing
Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen
Slap on a hat
Slide on some sunglasses