Malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is increasingly common among young people, largely due to an increase in sun and tanning bed exposure. Participating in indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%. The risk is even higher when used before age 25. Skin damage done in younger years cannot be reversed and can have devastating effects.
As part of a public education campaign, UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital’s Wendt Regional Cancer Center has joined the “It’s Your Skin Iowa” initiative. It’s Your Skin Iowa involves reaching out to high school students and, through friendly competition, encourages teens not to tan for events like spring break and prom. UnityPoint Health affiliates, John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines, Nassif Community Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids, Community Cancer Center in Waterloo, and Wendt Regional Cancer Center are all partnering on this initiative, along with the American Cancer Society and the Iowa Cancer Consortium to bring this program to their areas of the state of Iowa.
High school students (grades 9-12) in any county in Iowa can participate in the Instagram contest. In the tri-state area, four schools have taken the pledge for It’s Your Skin Iowa: Maquoketa Valley High School (Delhi), Central Community High School (Elkader), Wahlert Catholic High School (Dubuque), and Western Dubuque High School (Epworth). However, high schools in any of the following counties are invited to participate in the pledge contest: Adair, Appanoose, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Butler, Buchanan, Carroll, Cedar, Clarke, Dallas, Decatur, Delaware, Dubuque, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Linn, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, Polk, Poweshiek, Ringgold, Tama, Union, Warren, and Wayne.
Participating schools encourage students to sign an electronic pledge form agreeing not to use tanning beds, especially before prom and other special occasions, and to always wear sunscreen when outdoors. Students can also post photos on Instagram using the hashtag #itsyourskiniowa and explain why they have chosen not to tan or are going to stop tanning.
A $500 prize will be awarded to the high school in each participating region in Iowa with the highest number of pledges signed per student body to be used for an after-prom party or whatever the administration sees fit. For students who post to Instagram, two winners (one on February 15 and one on April 1) will receive a $100 Amazon gift card. Winners are determined based on creativity and inspiration of their post.
The pledge contest will run from January 1 – April 1, 2017.
School visits and education from Finley’s Wendt Regional Cancer Center are also available as part of the initiative. If interested, please email Laura.Duerr@unitypoint.org.