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June 24, 2021

More Pennsylvania state parks offering free sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer this summer

The program is funded by the state Department of Health's Cancer Fund in conjunction with Project Melanoma

Prevention Skin Cancer
Sunscreen Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

More Pennsylvania state parks are providing sunscreen to visitors this year in an effort to promote skin safety.

More Pennsylvania state parks will provide free sunscreen to guests this year through a program aimed at reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It's estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetimes.

Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer by protecting skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, the AAD says. 

"Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race," the AAD says. "Sunscreen can also help prevent premature skin aging, such as wrinkles and age spots, caused by too much unprotected UV exposure."

The program expanded this year to cover beaches, pools and playgrounds at more than 20 state parks and has the capacity to reach more than 1 million people, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural ResourcesEach park will receive two pole-mounted, battery-operated sunscreen dispensers that supply 30+ SPF Bright Guard sunscreen.

The DCNR is expanding the program to increase awareness of skin cancer risk and keep more people safe, spokesperson Wesley Robinson said in an email to PhillyVoice. 

"These dispensers are popular given many people may forget to pack sunscreen or need more than is in their bottle," Robinson said.

Parks get two cases of sunscreen each season, and as far as Robinson is aware, they don't tend to run out during the year.

French Creek State Park in Berks County was among those added to the program this year. Its pool will be closed all summer due to a construction project, but sunscreen will be available at its playground. 

The newly-added parks include:

•Black Moshannon, Centre County (beach)
•Canoe Creek, Blair County (beach)
•French Creek, Berks County (playground)
•Poe Valley, Centre County (beach)
•Ricketts Glen, Luzerne County (beach)
•Shawnee, Bedford County (beach)
•Tuscarora, Schuylkill County (beach)
•Tobyhanna, Monroe County (beach)

The parks already participating in the program are: 

•Bald Eagle, Centre County (beach)
•Beltzville, Carbon County (beach)

•Caledonia, Franklin County (pool)
Cordorus, York County (beach)
•Cowans Gap, Fulton County (beach)
•Gifford Pinchot, York County (beach)

•Laurel Hill Lake, Somerset County (beach 8 and 11)
•Little Buffalo, Perry County (pool)
•Marsh Creek, Chester County (beach)
•Mt. Pisgah, Bradford County (beach)

•Nockamixon, Bucks County (pool)

•Pine Grove Furnace, Cumberland County (beach)
•Presque Isle, Erie County (beach 6)

The AAD provides some helpful sun safety tips for your skin:

•Stay in the shade when possible. The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the AAD says if your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
•Cover your skin. Wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
•Be careful in the water and sand because they reflect damaging sun rays.
•Eat lots of vitamin D rich food. Don't rely on the sun for it, AAD says.
•Avoid tanning beds. The ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.

There are three major types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They generally present as skin irregularities like bumps, lesions and sores anywhere on the body, according to the Mayo ClinicRarer skin cancers can cause red and purple patches on the skin or shiny, firm nodules just below the skin. 

Not all skin irregularities are caused by cancer, but the Mayo Clinic urges people to see a doctor if they notice something new or painful on their skin. 

This marks the fifth year the program has been in place, with costs covered by the Department of Health's Cancer Fund in conjunction with Project Melanoma. 

"One in 40 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime," Robinson said. "Skin cancer and melanoma are among the most preventable types of cancer."

Fully-vaccinated visitors are not required to wear a mask outdoors, though they do need to be worn indoors. Unvaccinated people are required to wear masks indoors and outdoors when not actively swimming.

The state park system has 15 parks with pools that currently are open to the public. 

Some construction projects and staff shortages have delayed the opening of some beaches and poolsThe state is offering free lifeguard certification training to address those staffing issues.

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