Pennsylvania State Parks System Perfects and Promotes #PracticeSafeSkin

May 3, 2023

IMPACT Melanoma is proud of the partners and sun safe leadership cities we’ve collaborated with since launching our Practice Safe Skin program in 2014, which is why we’ve chosen to highlight the ongoing efforts of the Pennsylvania State Parks System. 

Check out how far the program has come and the impact it is making on Pennsylvania’s residents and visitors…  

Practice Safe Skin Continues to Make Progress

We’ve come a long way, which is why we consider our Practice Safe Skin program  the perfect example of the proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Our partnerships are key to the success of this program, which is why we’re so excited to highlight one program in particular that, as our project manager Melissa Huette observed, “is a perfect example of sustainability and expansion, which is what IMPACT Melanoma always strives for when developing these collaborative efforts.”  

We spoke with Ryan Dysinger, Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks and Brenda Anastasio, BSN, Comprehensive Cancer Control Program Director for the Department of Health Cancer Prevention and Control.

Here’s what they had to say…

Practicing Safe Skin in Pennsylvania

The PA Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (PA CCCP) is excited to highlight this 7th year working with DCNR on this important cancer prevention priority. The interest it has sparked with other agencies and organizations speaks to the value being placed on sun safety education and protection for the public and PA’s outdoor employees.

2023 will be year 7 of our on-going collaborative partnership with the PA Department of Health’s  Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (PA CCCP) and Impact Melanoma to provide free sunscreen to state park visitors. We are adding thirteen new parks to the program this calendar year (2023) and with this, we now have the potential to reach approximately 2,685,000 Pennsylvanians at 46 state parks. 

The signage, which is in English and Spanish, that goes with our dispensers helps educate visitors on sun safety and the importance of not only wearing sunscreen but covering your skin and seeking shade.  

Visitor feedback has been positive to this program with many noting that they like the availability of sunscreen at our state parks, especially when they may have forgotten to pack some for their trip. 

Melanoma is the 6th most diagnosed cancer in PA.

1 in 40 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. 

Prevention is Key

The best way to fight cancer is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. By providing the sunscreen and sun safety messaging, we hope to get people thinking about sun safety for not only themselves but their families and friends and to adopt sun protective behaviors during their  outdoor recreation at our state parks. 

Adopting sun protective behaviors works to prevent all types of skin cancers. While other forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell or squamous cell, may not be as dangerous or likely to spread as melanoma, they are thought to be more common and not to be taken lightly as treatments to remove these cancers can be quite invasive. 

I spent many years as an operating room nurse prior to my work in cancer prevention and control. Many of the people being surgically treated for skin cancer such as basal cell and squamous cell develop these cancers on the head and face areas which can be additionally traumatic to patients. It’s just so important to try and prevent cancer and if you have had a lot of sun exposure to have regular skin checks for early detection,” Anastasio explains. 

Dysinger adds, “In promoting outdoor activity, we’re aware that 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.”

We want people to get outside and enjoy the wonderful swimming areas that Pennsylvania state parks offer, all while practicing safe habits. Skin cancer and Melanoma are among the most prevalent and the most preventable types of cancer.  

Why is Free Sunscreen Trending?

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.  

Not only are these free stations helpful if you forget or run out of sunscreen, but with their bright yellow color they are visual reminders to reapply when you are out having fun participating in the many water related activities our state parks offer. 

As I visited several amusement parks, public swimming pools and Major League Baseball stadiums with my family, I noticed a growing trend helping to combat the dangers of sun damage, Dysinger said.

These facilities provided their guests with FREE sunscreen. I also make an annual visit to see my dermatologist, for a skin check, as I can remember not always practicing the best sun protection tips when I was younger. 

Dysinger reminds us that “Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race, sunscreen can also help prevent premature skin aging, such as wrinkles and age spots, caused by too much unprotected UV exposure.” 

The combination of these experiences led me to look into a program for our state parks. Even though we started on a small scale the first year or two, I’m grateful of the continued collaboration of the PA CCCP, Impact Melanoma and DCNR to make this program a success in Pennsylvania State Parks from when we started the program to where we are now.

Speaking of how it started… Check out The Gradual Successful Expansion of the Pennsylvania State Parks System Sunscreen Dispenser Initiative, our first feature highlighting this campaign!

Anastasio wrapped up our exchange by remarking that, ”The Sun Safety collaboration with DCNR over the past 7 years has been very rewarding for the PA CCCP. In addition to the sunscreen stations and messaging for park visitors, we have provided education and training to the outdoor staff at the various parks which has been very well received. PA has a significant outdoor workforce, so any opportunity to address cancer prevention within that group is a win.”

We are all about celebrating wins and look forward to highlighting more of our success with the Pennsylvania State Parks System. 

Learn more about IMPACT Melanoma’s Practice Safe Skin program and see how free sunscreen dispensers can make a difference in your community!


Recent Posts

Be SunSafe 365