Free Sunscreen Dispensers in Vermont State Parks Help Visitors Protect Their Skin

Photo of a sunscreen dispenser in an office underneath a poster promoting the 2016 - 2020 Vermont Cancer Plan.

Free sunscreen dispensers like this one have been placed in 28 state parks in Vermont.

Vermont’s mountains, waterways, and parks draw thousands of visitors throughout the year, and it’s important to make sure that they enjoy themselves safely. Too much exposure to the sun, summer or winter, increases the risk of skin cancer.

Only 1 in 3 Vermont residents always uses sunscreen, even during the summer, according to a poll by IMPACT Melanoma.external icon Those who use sunscreen often forget to apply it every 2 hours as recommended or follow other cancer prevention advice like checking their skin for changes regularly. Vermont has one of the nation’s highest rate of new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“Every year, more than 300 Vermonters are diagnosed with melanoma. More than 20 residents die from melanoma every year. It is a big cancer burden,” said Sharon Mallory, Coordinator for the Vermont Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.

In 2018, the Vermont Department of Healthexternal icon partnered with IMPACT Melanoma to add free sunscreen dispensers in 28 state and local parks and private ski areas. Each dispenser is filled with SPF 30 sunscreen and holds about 660 applications. The dispensers have messaging promoting the importance of sunscreen and are placed in areas where visitors tend to congregate. The state parks also have signs about where to find the sunscreen stations along with a short message on the importance of sun safety. The dispensers are maintained by the state park, local park, and ski area staff and are checked regularly for cleanliness and need for refilling.

“The sunscreen stations are a terrific way to deliver sun safety awareness to people when and where they most need it,” said Deb Girard, Executive Director of IMPACT Melanoma.

Photo of Joshua Sims Speyer standing next to a sunscreen dispenser

IMPACT Melanoma intern Joshua Sims Speyer stands next to a sunscreen dispenser.

Health department surveys showed that most park visitors liked the sunscreen dispensers. Many had their own sunscreen but said they would use the dispensers during future park visits. “Although I usually bring my own sunscreen, I think the idea of availability is great. It’s possible for anyone to forget,” said a park visitor. Visitors also said the messaging on the sunscreen stations and on the signs in state parks helped raise their awareness of skin cancer prevention.

The Vermont Department of Health is also promoting sun safety messagingexternal icon through its website, social media, and public service announcements on radio. Health department staff visit schools and ski resorts to promote awareness about sun protection. The health department’s efforts to increase awareness can help Vermonters protect themselves from skin cancer.