Salt Lake County collecting sun safety items for homeless

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 2:00 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake County kicks off a countywide donation drive for sun protection products to be used by the homeless population. (Shutterstock) Salt Lake County kicks off a countywide donation drive for sun protection products to be used by the homeless population. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has one of the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer in the country, so sunscreen is paramount for people who spend almost all of their days outside.

Getting protection from the sun, however, isn't easy for Utah's homeless population.

Through April 30, the Salt Lake County Health Department, Fourth Street Clinic, Utah Cancer Action Network and Salt Lake County Library Services are partnering to collect donations that will help prevent skin cancer among the valley's homeless population.

Donation boxes located at all Salt Lake County Library branches, the Salt Lake County Government Center and the Huntsman Cancer Institute will be available for unexpired sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher, sunglasses with ultraviolet protection, and various hats, preferably those with wide brims.

"This charitable drive also serves as a sun safety reminder for all Utahns," said Terri Sory, chronic disease prevention manager with the state's health department. "Now that spring is here and we're spending more time outdoors, we all need to be vigilant in protecting our skin."

With its elevation, plentiful outdoor opportunities and typical weather patterns, Utah carries a higher risk for skin cancer and specifically for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Harmful UV radiation comes from the sun, as well as from artificial sources such as tanning beds.

Utah carries one of the highest incidence rates for melanoma in the country, with at least 22.5 per 100,000 people affected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency's data also show that more people die of melanoma in Utah than in any other state.

Because homeless people spend more time outdoors, they have increased exposure to UV radiation and are at increased risk of developing skin cancer. As many homeless people lack health insurance, they have fewer opportunities for diagnosis and treatment. They typically end up at the Fourth Street Clinic, which will distribute the sun safety items donated to the cause.

Sory said the best way to stave off skin cancer is to prevent it, which means avoiding the sun's rays as much as possible by wearing long sleeves and pants in addition to sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and stay in the shade. She also said to avoid harmful UV rays from tanning beds.

Visit www.SLCoLibrary.org for library locations to donate sun safety supplies for the homeless. Other locations include the county's government center, 2001 S. State, and the sixth floor of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, 1950 E. Circle of Hope Drive.

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