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May 23, 2001
Contact: Kathy Harben
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion
(770) 488-5131
CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Press Release

Annual CDC campaign reminds young Americans to protect their skin from the summer sun

As summer approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds Americans that protecting their skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays can help reduce the risk of getting skin cancer. This year, more than 1 million new skin cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed. The most serious form of the disease, melanoma, will claim an estimated 7,700 lives.

CDC’s public education campaign, "Choose Your Cover", urges teens and young adults to play it safe when outdoors and protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The campaign includes upbeat television public service announcements (PSAs) that are geared to teens and young adults — groups that spend hours in the sun and are among the least likely to protect themselves. The campaign emphasizes that young people can protect their skin while still having fun outdoors.

"The ‘Choose Your Cover’ campaign reminds teens and young adults of the serious consequences of sun exposure. We’d like them to know it’s important to protect their skin from UV rays," said Nancy C. Lee, MD, director of CDC's cancer prevention and control programs.

CDC recommends five easy options for sun protection: Seek shade — especially during midday when UV rays are strongest and do most damage; Cover up — with clothing to protect exposed skin; Get a hat — with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck; Grab shades — that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible; and Rub on sunscreen — with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection.

This year’s "Choose Your Cover" TV public service announcement includes a volleyball game, a backyard barbecue, and hanging out on the campus green. "Our studies have shown that young people are more likely to think about protecting their skin at the beach or the pool; yet, they are less likely to think about sun protection during non-water activities such as sports or just hanging out with friends," said Cynthia Jorgensen, DrPH, a behavioral scientist with CDC’s cancer prevention and control division.

To help bring the sun protection message to young people, Seventeen magazine has partnered with CDC for the third year on a "Choose Your Cover" contest. This year’s partnership is a photo contest entitled "Sun Safety is a Snap."

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States. Research indicates it may be related to increased voluntary exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Unprotected skin can be harmed by UV rays in as little as 15 minutes, yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effects of sun exposure. So skin that looks "a little pink" now may actually progress into "red" sunburn hours later.

Serious sunburns, especially during childhood and adolescence, can also increase the chances of developing malignant melanoma — one of the most serious forms of skin cancer and the one that causes most skin cancer-related deaths. Although most Americans are aware of the dangers of UV exposure, it is estimated that only one third take steps to protect their skin from the sun.

For more information, visit the following Web sites:

CDC’s "Choose Your Cover" campaign:

Seventeen photo contest:

CDC protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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This page last reviewed May 23, 2001

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