Geraldton Grammar School has made sun protection for all students a normal part of their school day, bucking the trend of many other WA high schools.
The kindergarten to year 12 school has made long-term health and wellbeing a priority by ensuring all students wear a broad-brimmed hat, reducing their risk of developing skin cancer.
Excessive ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure in childhood and adolescence increases the risk of skin cancer later in life. Adolescents tend to receive greater UV exposure than adults as school and recreational activities often coincide with peak UV levels. However, many WA high schools do not require students to wear hats while outside.
Cancer Council WA's Midwest Regional Education Officer, Kate Raston, reported that melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15 - 29 years, despite being almost entirely preventable.
"Our skin is like a memory bank and remembers all the damage it has received over the years. Once the damage is done, it can't be undone and much of the sun damage to our skin that causes skin cancers in later life occurs during our teenage years," Ms Raston said.
"We encourage high schools to ensure that students are adequately protected from UV while at school."
Derek Lange, Deputy Principal at Geraldton Grammar, reported that all primary and secondary students have been required to wear a broad-brimmed hat at all times year-round for over ten years.
"It's an expectation that students wear their sun protective hats, and our school community is supportive of this. We've made our hats as affordable as we can, and ensure that teachers role model the expected behaviour," Mr Lange said.
"In a world where we are cognisant of the issues and aware of the severity of skin cancer it is easy to be proactive."
Cancer Council figures indicate that 38 per cent of young Australians (aged 12-17 years) are likely to get a suntan and nearly two-thirds of Australian teenagers are out in the open during peak UV times, putting themselves at risk of harmful sun exposure.
"We know that primary schools do a great job at ensuring students have appropriate uniforms. It would be wonderful if high schools across WA could follow the example set by Geraldton Grammar," Ms Raston said.
Sun protection is needed throughout the year in the Midwest, as the UV is regularly recorded at damaging levels.
"Our SunSmart message is to use sun protection when the UV is 3 or above," said Ms Raston.
- For your daily UV forecast, visit www.myuv.com.au.
- For information on sun protection in schools and the SunSmart program visit www.generationsunsmart.com.au.
- Find out more about skin cancer.