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Why Cancer Prevention Must Start in Childhood

By guest blogger Michelle Baker of the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund

A recent study by Cancer Research UK warns that the UK is facing a cancer “crisis”. The leading cancer charity reveals that ‘one in two’ people will now develop cancer within their lifetime, a figure which is up from the previous prediction of ‘one in three’. Although age is cited as the biggest risk factor, it was revealed that certain lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, diet, tanning and sunburn and lack of exercise contribute to this rising statistic.

When it comes to doing something positive, prevention is obviously better than cure. And when it comes to where to start, surely the best place is with children, ensuring that they have the opportunity to grow up with a reduced risk of becoming another victim to this most indiscriminate disease.Blowing the Whistle on Sunburn! Although getting kids playing outdoor sport is wholly positive and vital to health and wellbeing, spending prolonged periods of time outdoors can leave children – and those who work with them - vulnerable to the dangers of one of the most little known risk factors to cancer, sunburn. Sun exposure in childhood is a main factor in developing melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the third most common cancer in young people. In fact, sustaining just 5 or more sunburns in youth can double the lifetime risk of melanoma.

The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code was devised by the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund, and was specifically designed to help support all those who work outdoors with children, helping keeping them sun protected. This free downloadable resource educates and promotes positive action policy with the emphasis on encouraging individuals and groups/schools to generate their own unique sun protection policy and pledge to implement it consistently throughout summer. Kicking Bad Habits Although many adults understand the importance of sun protection, getting the job done consistently and effectively is still a challenge due to habits forged in their own childhood, including the lure of getting a tan! How many people can say that they protect their skin effectively all summer long? Leading by example is vital and so habits need to change. Coaches, teachers and leaders are encouraged to include habits such as reapplication of SPF15+ after lunch breaks, remember that sunburn is still a risk on cloudy or foggy days, that if the day starts overcast, the afternoon can be blistering hot. To remind them, the initiative also promotes the idea of nominating young sun monitors whose role will be to remind adults of their pledge.

At the centre of the new campaign is ‘Blow the Whistle on Sunburn’, a short film, currently being produced in association with the Youth Sport Trust and due to be launched in April. It aims to not just to educate adults but empower all children with knowledge that will enable them to make their own decisions on sun protection and pass this on to all those who look after them.Physical Education and Sport Backing The Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code is solely funded and devised by the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund and supported not only by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, but by over 80 National Governing Bodies of Sport and outdoor organisations. It was developed with the help of four associate partners; Youth Sports Trust, Association for Physical Education, Child Protection in Sport Unit (NSPCC) and Sports Coach UK.

Harry Townsend, Founder of the charity says; “There needs to be a cultural change, so that people who work outdoors with children see sun protection as an integral part of their activity during summer, not just an optional add-on. The incidence of melanoma has doubled each decade for the last 50 years and is still continuing to do so. We believe that by working together with our members, parents and children we can bring down the incidence of melanoma.”For further information regarding the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code, please visit www.oksunsafetycode.com or contact Michelle Baker on 01892 319845 .-See more at: http://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/blog/guest-blog/05-02-2015/why-cancer-prevention-must-start-childhood#sthash.1quCJbgw.dpuf