Contest, Education, Government Outreach, Public Health, Skin Cancer, Sun-safety



  1. Landolfi, Rob


ABSTRACT: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the SHADE Foundation run an annual poster contest to promote awareness of skin cancer, ultraviolet radiation, and sun safety. The contest is open to K-8 students, has received over 100,000 entries, and has awarded trips to Disney World and Washington, DC, along with many other prizes.


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Walk into the average person's workspace, and there's a good chance you'll see some art made by a special young person. In my cube, it's a poster of "Fluffy, the Sun Burn Horse-maid." As you'd expect from this genre, this poster has its share of misspelled words, a heavy reliance on primary colors, a proto-modernist sense of perspective and proportion, and some wildly creative subject matter (Figure 1). Usually, the owner of such art is the parent or some other relative of the artist, but I do not know the genius behind Fluffy at all. I feel pride and joy in it just the same.

Figure 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 1. Fluffy the Sun Burn Horse-maid.

Fluffy is an entry in the SunWise with SHADE poster contest and is one student's effort to teach others how to avoid the dangers of too much sun exposure-1 of over 100,000 such posters sent in over the years. I'm proud to have helped so many kids protect their own health and use their creativity and talents to teach other kids to do the same, and I'm joyful because I recognize in Fluffy the hallmarks of serious learning and serious fun. I taught middle- and high-school science for 10 years before coming to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and I've worked with enough messy science fair projects to know that nothing engages a student's brain like the ability to bring something original and personal to a topic and to spread understanding and ideas to her peers, regardless of how polished the final product turns out. I may never fathom why Fluffy wears a shirt that says, "Rock N' Nose," but I do not have to understand that to know that this student really took in some important ideas about science and health and had a good time telling other kids about those ideas.


In the 2012, SunWise with SHADE poster contest, another 12,000+ students from grades K-8 sent in posters, representing 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands (Figures 2-7). Although we are proud of the growth of the contest over the last 10 years, we strive to continue to expand the reach of the sun safety messages the contest promotes and to help protect children's health. As trusted sources of medical information and advice, dermatology nurses can let their patients know about this opportunity to learn how to prevent disease, represent their school and state, compete for prizes, and exercise their artistic creativity. Students can win a trip to Disney World or a digital camera, and their school can receive a shade structure to help all of its students be safe on school grounds. Plus, winning students can see and show off their posters on the SHADE and EPA Web sites, and many students have received recognition in school and local papers.

Figure 2 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 2. EPA 2013 Postcard National.
Figure 2 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 2. No caption available.
Figure 3 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 3. NY K3 Animals: Jonna, second grade, Staten Island, NY.
Figure 4 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 4. NM Cacti: Sueda, sixth grade, Albuquerque, NM - national winner.
Figure 5 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 5. CA Mirror Sunglasses: Jessica, eighth grade, San Diego, CA.
Figure 6 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 6. NY A Window Pane: Jessica, sixth grade, Stonybrook, NY.
Figure 7 - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE 7. KY Girl Magnifying Glass: Kate, fourth grade, Lexington, KY.

All kids need to do is send in an original poster that shows others ways to be safe from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Some examples of safety action steps to include are


* using sunscreen;


* avoiding tanning beds;


* wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;


* checking the UV Index so you know in advance when UV radiation levels will be high;


* seeking shade when the sun's UV is most intense, between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.; and


* covering up with full-length clothing.



The deadline for the 2013 contest is on April 1st; complete rules for the contest can be found at


With the help of dermatologists and dermatology nurses, we hope to have even greater participation this year and to be able to award prizes to kids from all 50 states. Please lend a hand by telling patients about the SunWise with SHADE poster contest and pointing them to the Web site. The ages of K-8 students is a key time to establish safety habits that can endure through adulthood, so reaching young people and their caregivers can reduce negative health effects for years to come. We appreciate the hard work you do to keep your patients healthy and to fight skin cancer and other skin diseases, and we are happy that we can provide a tool to support you in that work.