This lesson helps young people understand how to keep their skin safe in the sun. The youth will identify signs of melanoma and take note of any moles to watch on their own bodies.
Start by telling the youth that everybody needs some exposure to the sun. It is our body’s main source of Vitamin D which makes our bones stronger and healthier by absorbing calcium. Most people do not need a lot of sun exposure to get the vitamin D that they need, in fact too much unprotected sun exposure can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and even cause skin cancer.
There are many ways to prevent these dangers.
- Young people should wear a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher while in the sun.
- They should also be especially careful from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.
- It is important that sunscreen is reapplied often, especially after getting the skin wet.
- It may be helpful to wear long sleeves and a hat to protect the skin from overexposure.
- Tell the youth that wearing sunglasses with 100% UV (ultraviolet) protection while outside will help protect their eyes from being damaged by the sun.
- Remind the young people that their skin can get burned even on cloudy days so make sure to be careful if spending time outside.
If the skin does burn, there are some things you can do to make it feel better.
- Take a cool bath.
- Apply pure aloe vera gel to any part of the skin that is sunburned.
- Use a moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin to treat itching.
Activity: Body Map
- Hand out some laminated photos with different types of skin cancer for the class to pass around. Tell them that a lot of skin cancers show up in moles. Teach them about the ABCDE’s of a mole (see right). Visit What Does Melanoma Look Like? for more information.
- See if the youth can find any moles on their arms or legs. Have them inspect the mole using the ABCDE’s for skin cancer.
- Have each young person make a skin map of their bodies:
- Hand out a copy of the body ‘map’ using the template provided.
- Have each young person look at their arms, hands and neck and fill in any moles, birthmarks or freckles they have, onto the body “map.”
ABCDE’s of a Mole
- A = Is it asymmetric or irregular in shape?
- B = Does it have a border that is ragged or notched as healthy moles generally don’t.
- C = Is it a funny color (red, black, mixture of colors)?
- D = Is it larger in diameter than a pencil eraser?
- E = Is it evolving or getting bigger? Any change in shape, color, elevation or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting is a danger sign.
Each young person should bring the body ‘map’ home to have the rest of the body completed with the help of a parent. Tell the youth that they can look back to the body ‘map’ if they see any new or changing spots.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which includes tips for keeping skin safe in the sun and instructions for watching the ABCDE’s of moles.
Additional Instructor Resources
Sunwise for Kids computer games by EPA.gov
What Are These Spots On My Skin by Scott Naughton
Skin Sense: A Story about Sun Safety for Young Children by Lori Lehrer-Glickman