- Sara Tabin
- A sunscreen dispenser
Don't stress if you forget to slather up with sunscreen before a trip to a Vermont beach or state park this summer. The state Department of Health has your back.
Officials have put up lotion dispensers, some bearing the slogan "SPF is your BFF," at sites throughout the state in an effort to reduce skin cancer, according to Sharon Mallory, the health department's comprehensive cancer control program director.
The first was installed in May at Bombardier Park in Milton. Other dispensers, filled with SPF 30 sunscreen, are in use at nearly a dozen state parks, green spaces in Burlington and at Sugarbush Resort.
The state is also planning school programming to encourage cancer-preventative behavior such as wearing hats and seeking shade, and to inform students about the dangers of indoor and outdoor tanning. The entire initiative will cost $20,000 over two years but will be covered by an annual grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vermont has the second-highest skin cancer rate in the country, according to Mallory. She said that more than 260 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the state every year and about 21 Vermonters die annually from the cancer. The exact reason for the high rate is unknown, but it might be connected to Vermont's largely "fair-skinned" population, she said. Another hypothesis is that Vermonters spend so much of the year bundled up that they forget to practice safe-sun behaviors when they go out in the summer, said Mallory.
Despite the risks, she had a simple message: Don't let fear of cancer keep you indoors.
"Being active and being outside is a really important part of being a Vermonter ... We are healthy because of it," Mallory said. "We want people to get out there and be active. Enjoy your parks, but let's just be aware of being sun safe."