Slip! Slop! Slap! was a very successful sun protection awareness campaign in the early 80s in Australia. It was one of the first to highlight the multi-dimensional approach to sun protection, and the catch phrase has outlasted the memory of the original advert.
The message has evolved over time to now include seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses, and the ongoing push to make the public aware of the link between sun exposure and melanoma continues. This message has been taken up far and wide in Australia, with kids being smothered in sunscreen from the time they start childcare, and "no hat, no play" rules enforced in just about every school.
However, a gap in the education about melanoma reduction seems to be the misunderstanding of the UV index. A common misconception is that sun protection doesn't apply in cloudy, cold, or generally non-summery times. Even here in Australia, children are only required to wear hats in the two summer terms of school.
The understanding that it is UV radiation, not heat, that causes the damage is still a message that needs to be highlighted. People who live, work, or play in the higher altitudes, and particularly in the snow, don't always hear this message, and winter is a particularly dangerous time for skin damage and the increasing risk of not only melanoma and other skin cancers, but cataracts and aging skin. While UV levels are lower in winter than summer, this risk of skin damage is increased by the reflection from the snow and a misunderstanding that cloud cover doesn't equal risk minimization.
So how do we push the message of sun protection in the snow? Well, as covering exposed skin is a significant part of the risk reduction message, I'd say that we're halfway there with the snow-loving crowd. Encouraging sunglasses and masks rather than goggles for further coverage and free and open use of sunscreens are other strategies that may work. As always, it's a difficult message to get across to the younger "won't happen to me" generation.
MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses the importance of using sunscreen 365 days of the year and not just the summer months. This issue is one of the more tricky ones to develop a meaningful education or awareness campaign around. It will take significant collaborative effort to find a way to create a program that is successful in getting people interested and engaged regarding the under-acknowledged risks of wintertime sun.