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Free Public Sunscreen Dispensers Could Save Lives — Meet the People Behind Them

March 25, 2019

Every hour a person dies from melanoma in the U.S. Accessible and free sunscreen has been linked to lower rates of skin cancer.

Even on a cloudy day, Deb Girard lathers on sunscreen.

“I try to be a good role model,” says Girard, the executive director of IMPACT Melanoma, a nonprofit that works to increase education and reduce skin cancer.

Melanoma rates have continued to rise over the past 30 years. Cities, nonprofits and health organizations are looking for strategies to reduce that statistic.

One way is through sunscreen dispensers.

Whether it’s heading to a baseball game or walking on a public beach, free sunscreen is now available for passersby in places like the Braves stadium in Atlanta and West Palm Beach, Florida. These small, touch-free dispensers work just like the automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers that you might find in restaurants, schools and grocery stores.

The goal of these dispensers is to make sunscreen accessible, cue visual reminders to reapply and as a result, lower rates of melanoma, says Girard.

Melanoma rates are rising faster than that of any other cancer: every hour one person dies from the disease in the U.S. alone, and it’s the most common form of cancer for people between the ages of 15 and 29. It amounts to $3.3 billion in health care costs annually.

“As compared to needing treatment for skin cancer and melanoma, [dispensers] are not expensive things,” Girard says.

Melanoma is largely preventable, and the way to do that is by using sunscreen every day.

Ross Donaldson says his family has more sunscreen than the average family. “But we never seem to have it where we needed it and when we needed it.”

So he developed his own sunscreen dispenser called Sunstation USA.

If hand sanitizer dispensers are everywhere, sunscreen dispensers can be too, says Donaldson, Sunstation’s CEO. He says it felt like a simple solution that could help reduce sun cancer. “There’s a lot of research dedicated towards public sunscreen intervention programs and the results are really promising,” he says.


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