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Free Sunscreen Program Expanded Throughout Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 07/12/2019

Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced expansion of a program offering visitors free sunscreen at state park beaches and swimming pools throughout Pennsylvania.

"We are extremely grateful that the Department of Health and its Division of Cancer Prevention and Control have partnered with us to support and expand this important project," Dunn said, speaking at a Gifford Pinchot State Park beach. "In promoting outdoor activity, we're aware over 8,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, and these dispensers should prove invaluable to visitors to our lakes, beaches, and pools who may overlook sunscreen when packing for a day's outing."

Beginning in summer 2017, DCNR'S Bureau of State Parks began supplying free sunscreen at Fuller Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Cumberland County, and at the swimming pool at Codorus State Park in York County. The program now has been expanded to nine state parks.

"We want people to get outside and enjoy the wonderful swimming areas that Pennsylvania state parks offer, all while practicing safe habits," Dr. Levine said. "The free sunscreen offered at state parks allows park visitors to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunscreen with SPF 30, or higher, with broad spectrum coverage can help protect the skin from dangerous sunburns and decrease the chances of developing serious health conditions."

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause numerous health effects such as skin cancer, cataracts and eye cancer. Types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in Pennsylvania, with nearly 3,700 new cases in 2016. One in 40 Pennsylvanians are at risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime. While nearly 90 percent of people who develop melanoma survive, in 2016, 388 people died from this cancer.

Melanomas often resemble moles, and some even develop from moles. This is why it is so important to constantly monitor your body and be aware of any changes. If you have a mole that seems abnormal or is changing, have it looked at by a physician. Melanoma that is recognized and treated early is almost always curable. If not detected early, it can spread and be fatal.

Feedback from Pine Grove Furnace and Codorus state parks encouraged DCNR to expand by adding three additional parks in 2018 to what began as a pilot program. New parks offering sunscreen were Bald Eagle (beach), Centre County; Gifford Pinchot (beach), York County, and Nockamixon (swimming pool), Bucks County. With continuing positive feedback, four parks were added: Little Buffalo, Perry County; Laurel Hill, Somerset County; Presque Isle, Erie County, and Caledonia, Franklin County.

The Bureau of State Parks noted the sunscreen dispenser program has the potential of reaching 500,000 Pennsylvanians at its nine parks. All nine locations are within counties reporting a high incidence of melanoma, a life-threatening form of skin cancer.

For the third year, all park costs are again covered by the Department of Health's Cancer Fund, which is federally funded. Each park is receiving close to $750 worth of equipment to participate.

Throughout the summer season, state park staff will oversee and maintain sunscreen dispensers. Two pole-mounted, battery-operated dispensers, supplying 30+ SPF BrightGuard sunscreen applications, will be positioned at each park.

Sunscreen ingredients are listed on sides of the tamperproof units by the company, which has provided educational training for park staff. Experts say daily application of a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher can aid in prevention of skin cancer.

At season's end, the Bureau of State Parks again will evaluate the program to determine if further expansion is warranted. It also is pursuing opportunities to collaborate with local health organizations for future expansion of the program.

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