www.co.hunterdon.nj.us | Department of Health | Media Releases | 2008

County Health Department
DATED: Thursday, May 22, 2008
CONTACT: Hunterdon County Health Department at 908-788-1351
CONTACT PERSON: Carl Rachel, Public Relations Director
EMAIL: crachel@co.hunterdon.nj.us


Hunterdon County residents get skin cancer at a higher rate than people statewide or nationwide, according to the National Cancer Institute.  What's more, more residents die of skin cancer in Hunterdon County than do in comparable cases throughout N.J. and the rest of the country.

“Clearly, this is a serious health concern for Hunterdon County residents,” said John Beckley, director of the county health department.  “We’re doing what we can with the resources we have to address this issue.  It requires sustained attention and persistence to encourage residents to take precautions.  When our community is more aware of the facts and the dangers, the changes in behavior that are necessary are sure to follow.”

Starting early is a key.  To that end, the Hunterdon County Cancer Coalition launched its Sun Safe Hunterdon program last year.  The project is based on public health science evidence that one serious sunburn during childhood increases the risk of skin cancer later in life, and that it pays to “take cover” at an early age. 

“Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now the most common cancer among people 25 to 29 years old,” explained Marc Katz, coordinator for the cancer coalition.  “The good news is that lowering the risk of skin cancer is very possible through proper use of sunscreens with a rating of at least SPF-30, wearing hats, sunglasses, and coverings such as T-shirts and towels.  That’s what our Sun Safe program is working to promote.”

The cancer coalition is visiting county schools to encourage sun safe behaviors in third and fourth grade students, making the practice of sun safe behaviors a normal part of going outside.

“It’s important, especially with kids, to take the message right to them,” said Katz.  “We meet with them in their classrooms for presentations, we work with the school administrators to establish a sun safe policy, and we’re creating signs that display the daily Califon Public School 3rd Graders Participat in the Sun Safe Program sponsored by the Hunterdon County Cancer Coalitionultraviolet (UV) level.  But our most popular sun safe item has to be the bucket hats we give students and teachers who will role model the behavior.”  The hats are given to all third and fourth grade students whose school participates in the Sun Safe Hunterdon program.  Those who get a hat make the commitment to wear it outside when the UV sign shows a level of six or above. 

Last year, the Califon third graders participated in the Sun Safe program.  This year, as fourth graders, they are in charge of changing the daily UV inserts on the sign located at their school.

Classroom presentations are led both by Dr. Alissa Fox, a local dermatologist, and Katz.  County schools already signed up for the Sun Safe program this year include Franklin Township School, Califon Public School, Thomas B. Conley School, Clinton Public School, East Amwell School, Lester D. Wilson School, Bloomsbury Elementary School, and Immaculate Conception School. Participating in a first-of-its-kind Sun Safe Hunterdon poster contest are the Califon Public School and Lester D. Wilson School.  Posters will be displayed at the Hunterdon Medical Center on June 2-11.

“We know we’re making progress with Hunterdon kids,” added Katz. “We heard that the Bloomsbury School is now including the daily UV level during their morning announcements.  They’re focusing on this on a daily basis.  That’s the best way to modify behavior over time.  And the kids are really excited about decorating their bucket hats with colored beads and neat designs.  Those hats will be a reminder.”


www.co.hunterdon.nj.us | Department of Health | Media Releases | 2008