Arizona: Being “SunWise” for Skin Cancer Prevention

With more than 300 sunny days a year, Arizona is one of America’s sunniest states, so sun safety for its residents is especially important. Even a few serious sunburns in childhood can increase the chance of getting skin cancer later in life. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funding to support a coordinator for the SunWise skin cancer awareness program since 2003.

The SunWise program promotes sun safety through many channels. SunWise’s coordinator and other staff provide educational information about sun safety to the public through newspapers, radio stations, and magazines. They also work with community organizations like the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden to teach their visitors how to protect themselves from the sun. Two professional sports teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and the Phoenix Coyotes ice hockey team, also support the SunWise program by helping their fans learn sun safety. During exhibition games, team spokespersons talk about sun safety and promote sun-safe behaviors like wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. All of these fun outdoor activities present special opportunities to teach people how to protect themselves from the sun.

Arizona was the first state to require all schools to teach sun safety, and more than 2,000 packets of sunscreen are given out every year at school events by the SunWise coordinator. ADHS also hosts an annual SunWise poster contest for all students in grades pre-K–12. In 2015, more than 3,100 poster entries were received from schoolchildren statewide. The Arizona Diamondbacks judged the entries, chose the winner, and presented an award to the winner during a Diamondbacks game. The winning poster was used to promote the 2016 SunWise campaign and poster contest. The poster contest was held again in 2016, and the winning artist, a seventh-grader from Wade Carpenter Middle School, illustrated key sun safety tips to encourage people to “Be Sunwise.”

Arizona’s SunWise Program uses PHHS Block Grant funds to build awareness about skin cancer and teach good sun safety habits to everyone.

Story year: 2015


The winner of the 2016 SunWise poster contest was Kassandra Loya, a 7th grader from Wade Carpenter Middle School in Nogales, Arizona.

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018