Steamboat Springs Even Christian Heritage School Administrator Dave Entwistle wears a hat at recess.
Dermatologist Sandi Eivins, of the Dermatology Center of Steamboat Springs, started a safety program this year to educate Christian Heritage students about skin cancer, the dangers of ultraviolet ray exposure and what students can do to avoid getting too much sun.
Eivins, who has two daughters at the school, said the sun is much more dangerous at higher elevations.
Ultraviolet ray exposure increases 10 percent for every 1,000 feet of elevation, Eivins said. She said melanoma is present in one in 32 Colorado men, nearly double the national average of one in 60. And she said non-melanoma ski cancers are 30 to 50 percent more prevalent in Colorado than the rest of the country.
“It’s alarming the amount of skin cancer we see here,” she said. “In order to make a big impact in the community, you really have to start with the kids.
“It’s what we do today, but we’re going to see 20 years from now the results from this.”
Eivins said her daughter Paige, an eighth-grader at Christian Heritage, gave a school-wide presentation last fall about the dangers of skin cancer and how it can be prevented. Eivins then met with classes to reinforce what Paige had presented.
Also as part of the program, Eivins bought broad-rimmed sun-protective hats for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and Heritage Park Preschool students.
“They’re fabulous,” Heritage Park Preschool Director Erin Schroeder said. “They’re great, made specifically for sun protection. And they’re adorable hats that kids are excited about wearing.”
Entwistle said Christian Heritage students wore their hats this school year, but could do better. He said the school will promote the program from the first day of school next year, encouraging teachers and students to wear hats and sunscreen.
“This is something that is excellent to try to be proactive with our kids,” he said. “Especially where we live in the altitude, I just think we need to be more cognizant of protecting our kids and be proactive. I am so appreciative. This is an idea Sandi had last summer. I said, ‘Go for it.’”
Similar educational programs have reduced incidences of skin cancer elsewhere, Eivins said. She said the government in Australia created a program that taught children about skin cancer and encouraged them to wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
Eivins said she hopes that type of success happens in Steamboat.
“I think it was a great start, and I’m looking forward to continuing the program and educating the kids and moving into other schools, if possible,” she said.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com