Every year, thousands of kids splash their way through summer by taking swimming lessons at Boise’s municipal pools. The lessons also offer the kids some valuable instruction on how to prevent skin cancer, too.
The effort got underway at the start of swim season with a 90-minute training program for swim instructors and lifeguards. Vicky Jekich, manager of St. Luke’s MSTI’s Community Cancer Education and Outreach, used a variety of training tools to underscore the sun-safety messages, including the image of a truck driver whose left side of his face shows premature aging after 20-plus years of sun damage, and a skin-analyzer device that gave the instructors the opportunity to check their own faces for sun damage.
Jekich covered the importance of wearing sun protective clothing, using wide-brimmed hats and UV protection sunglasses as well as the use of sunscreen and applying broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (sun protection factor) every two hours. (To learn more about “how the sun sees you,” watch this video.
Instructors also learned about risk factors, the three types of skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma), how to guard against harmful UVA and UVB rays, and that a tan is damaged skin and doesn’t protect you from getting skin cancer.
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Jekich and other MSTI staff also have done trainings at pools in Meridian, Payette, Nampa, Filer and Twin Falls.
This focus on prevention is critical since specific behaviors contribute to 60 to 80 percent of known causes of cancer and many of the behaviors begin during adolescence, according to Jekich.
At the Borah pool, Teresa Rostron and her instructors integrated the “Pool Cool” lesson into their water safety day during each lesson session. In addition to talking about the hidden dangers of lakes and pool hazards, they also coached their students on the need to use sunscreen and why it is important to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful rays.
In nine years as manager of the Borah municipal pool on Boise’s Bench, Rostron has spent hundreds of hours on the pool deck. “More than anything, the training has made me more diligent about using sunscreen myself,” she says.
“Those who work outside are especially at risk due to the prolonged exposure to the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays, so we try to reinforce the importance of sun safety, not only to understand the risks, but to dispel the myths and explain how they can protect themselves while on the job,” says Jekich. “Most workers know that the sun’s UV rays can burn their skin, but many don’t realize that every time they experience a sunburn, they are increasing their risk for skin cancer. Others believe having darker or “tanned” skin will prevent them from getting skin cancer, but that is not the case.”