Best Practices

Sun Safety

Even though skin cancer most often develops in adulthood, its development may be related to our behavior as children. Scientists theorize that there are two primary triggers for skin cancer-accumulated lifetime exposure to the sun and severe sunburns during childhood. How does this relate to children? We get most of our sun exposure as children. Kids play outdoors. They need to know how to stay safe in the sun by finding shade, wearing cover-up clothing, and using sunscreen.


School plays a major role in children's daily lives. As an institution of learning, it can provide opportunities for developing and reinforcing lifelong positive health habits. Children spend four to seven hours at school each day including one to three hours outdoors for recess, lunch, physical education classes, field trips, and after-school activities. Depending on the climate and season, outdoor school activities may result in a significant amount of sun exposure. Research indicates that most people receive as much as 25 percent of their total lifetime sun exposure during their first 18 years.


Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer. With more than one million new cases each year, skin cancer is the most common and preventable cancer in the United States.


Schools can play an integral role in skin cancer prevention efforts by:

  • Promoting sun safe behaviors among students and staff.
  • Providing sun safe environments, schedules, and activities.
  • Teaching sun safety as part of comprehensive school health.
  • Adopting the CDC's Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer.


Background Documents

Recommended Strategies

  • Assess the school's sun safety practices and policies. Use the Assess Your School or District survey to determine the sun safety areas where you school excels and which areas could use a little improvement.
  • Develop a sun safe policy.
  • Build awareness within the community by working with staff, parents, students and community leaders to build sun safe partnerships which can help in planning and implementing sun safe school policies and environmental changes.
  • Teach children early in life about preventive practices which may lead to lifelong sun safe habits.
  • Incorporate sun safety into classroom instruction.
  • More information on Sun Safe Colorado


Related Colorado Programs