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WHO releases new educational package about ozone layer

The World Health Organization has released a new educational package-- OzonAction Education Pack-- that provides teaching plans about the ozone layer.  The package, launched globally on September 15th in English, French and Spanish is designed for elementary school teachers.  The package contains an entire teaching and learning program, based on basic knowledge, practical skills and participation, to enable children to learn about simple solutions to protect the ozone layer and safely enjoy the sun. 

The pack, produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), was released to coincide with the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer on the 16th of September. This years theme was Protect the Ozone Layer, Save Life on Earth.

Download the education pack from the United Nations Environment Program website here

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Trends in adolescent sun safety behaviors

In 1998 and 2004 the American Cancer Society commissioned telephone surveys to gauge adolescent sun safety behavior in each year.  The results of these surveys have been analyzed and were recently published in the journal Pediatrics.


The number of youth experiencing at least one sunburn did not change significantly over the time period between the two surveys.  In 2004 69% of those surveyed reported having a sunburn during the past summer.  However, the prevalence of sunburn in younger teens significantly decreased.  For 11- to 13-year-olds, sunburn prevalence decreased by about 8%, and the prevalence for 14- to 15-year-olds decreased by 9%. The authors note that this may be due to parental encouragement to practice sun safety. 


There was an increasing trend in the proportion of youth who reported wearing sunscreen before getting a serious sunburn.  Regular use of sunscreen was independently associated with experiencing sunburn in the past summer.  This result may suggest that sunscreen use is also a marker for excessive UV exposure and that youth may not be applying sunscreen adequately for efficient protection.  This is behavior that should be focused on for education as sunscreen continues to be the main form of protection from the sun practiced by youth. 


Trends showed a slight increase in positive attitudes toward the benefits of sun protection in youth.  The authors credit educational skin cancer prevention efforts in schools, outdoor aquatic settings, and media campaigns with contributing to this change. 

Tanning preferences continued to be prevalent while barriers to sun safety, such as the opinions that sun feels good on my skin and avoiding the sun takes the fun out of being outdoors increased.


The authors conclude that efforts to strengthen the implementation of skin cancer prevention programs are necessary, along with environmental structural supports and policies. 


Article Published: Cokkinides V, Weinstock M, Glanz K, et al. Trends in Sunburns, Sun Protection Practices, and Attitudes Toward Sun Exposure Protection and Tanning Among US Adolescents, 1998-2004. Pediatrics. 2006;118(3)

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New cream may tan fair skinned people without UV exposure

In a recent study published in the September 21 issue of Nature, researchers report that they may have discovered a way to reactivate the melanin producing pathways in red-haired and fair skinned people. 


It is commonly understood that fair skinned people develop skin cancer at a higher rate than those with darker skin.  People with darker skin have higher levels of melanin. 


Melanin, a pigment that is believed to prevent skin cancer, is produced by a chemical within the body called cyclic AMP (cAMP).  Fair-skinned and/or red haired people have lower levels of cAMP in their bodies.  Therefore, there is less melanin production resulting in lighter skin and an increased risk for sun damage. 


Dr. David Fisher, director of the Melanoma Program, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and lead author of the study, indicates that when the cream, forskolin, was applied to fair skinned mice, their cAMP levels increased thus stimulating an increased production of melanin.  As a result, the mices skin became darker.  The color produced was similar to that achieved by a sun tan.


Experts are skeptical of the results and warn that due to the skin differences between mice and humans, the cream may not be able to penetrate deep enough to produce the same results in humans. 


In addition, the side effects of using such a cream on humans have not been studied.  This research is still in its infancy, and the actual effects it may or may not have on humans are yet to be determined. 


Skin cancer is one of the most preventable skin cancers there is, unfortunately, the incidence of skin cancer is rising. The most effective way to prevent skin cancer is to wear sun protective clothing, sunglasses, apply sunscreen, and avoid overexposure to UV rays.   


Many researchers are working to develop healthy ways to satisfy the popular desire for darker skin while reducing the incidence of skin cancer. 


Source: D'Orazio J.A., Nobuhisa T, Fisher D.E., et al. Topical drug rescue strategy and skin protection based on the role of Mc1r in UV-induced tanning. Nature 2006; 443(7109) p340-344


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