Sun safe albany1
Sun Safe Albany2

Sun Safe Albany

Sun Safe Albany is an initiative that aims to bring accessible sun protection throughout the Capital Region. Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays and promote sun protection usage and accessibility.

Prolonged sun exposure can have detrimental impacts on our health. UV rays emitted by the sun penetrate our skin and cause DNA damage, which can lead to skin cancer over time. According to the CDC, melanoma is the 6th most diagnosed cancer by rate of new cases. It only takes 5 sunburns to double your risk of developing melanoma. Outdoor workers receive up to 8x more UV radiation and have a 60% greater risk of developing skin cancer.

Unlike many cancers, melanoma and skin cancers are largely preventable. A known method of preventing sun damage, especially when there is no shade available, you’re not covered up, or you’re doing lengthy, outdoors work, is wearing sunscreen. Regular use of sunscreen is known to lower melanoma risk by 50%, given that it has an SPF of at least 15 and is reapplied every 2 hours.

New York State Public Health Corp Fellow Hesan Waly has partnered with IMPACT Melanoma, a leading non-profit organization that has been dedicated to skin cancer prevention for over 25 years and have placed over 7,000 sunscreen dispensers across the country. These sunscreen dispensers provide all-natural, water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen.

Currently, there are over twenty parks and recreation sites throughout Albany County with sunscreen dispensers placed. To learn more about our program, partners, and current sunscreen dispenser locations, please click on the links below.

Information obtained from the United States EPA, The Skin Cancer Foundation, and IMPACT Melanoma.

Our Story

Hesan Waly, a New York State Graduate Fellow working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County, started this project after engaging with community members on cancer screening and prevention. Through her conversations on skin cancer prevention, and her own research, she realized that skin cancer is a growing problem in the Capital Region. While skin cancer is largely preventable, sunscreen and sun protection methods are not always accessible. Often, when people are spending time outdoors and need sunscreen, they do not have access to it for a variety of reasons: for some, purchasing sunscreen is not in their budget, for others, they forget to apply it, or it has been over 2 hours since they last applied it. She was alarmed by the rising rates of skin cancer and melanoma in Albany County and realized this is an area in public health that needs to be acted on now.

Researching possible solutions to this problem, she learned about the non-profit IMPACT Melanoma’s Practice Safe Skin program, which includes installing sunscreen dispensers at parks, pools, recreational sites, and worksites, and thought to herself- why not Albany County? She formed a group of sun safety advocates, including the non-profit IMPACT Melanoma as well as a Dr. Robert Shoss, a board-certified dermatologist practicing in the Capital District for nearly 47 years and Vice President of the New York State Dermatology Society. Together, they worked to bring accessible sun protection to Albany County.

Recognizing the risk of developing skin cancer increases with age, Albany County Department of Aging Commissioner Deb Riitano was a huge proponent for this initiative and provided funding for the first phase of the project. Garnering support from the City of Albany Department of Recreation, the Albany County Department of Recreation, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, they moved forward with the first phase of their initiative.

On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, they kicked off the first phase along with the unveiling of the first sunscreen dispenser at the Watervliet Veterans Memorial Park alongside Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli. Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy was recognized for his outstanding leadership in promoting skin cancer prevention with the Sun Safe Leadership award from IMPACT Melanoma and became the first county to receive a Sun Safe Leadership award. Mayor Kathy Sheehan was also presented with a Sun Safe Leadership award for the City of Albany.

Currently, our team is working to expand this program throughout the Capital District, as well as increase skin cancer prevention education and programming.

Last updated July 14, 2023