TH Chan School of Medicine student Christopher Fay is leading an effort to install nearly 50 sunscreen dispensers in the city of Worcester, where skin cancer is on the rise.
“There are community members for whom sunscreen is over their regular budget and who will now be able to enjoy our city’s precious green spaces safely,” Fay said at a press conference on Worcester Common on Tuesday. Wednesday, May 25.
Fay’s father was diagnosed with melanoma, prompting young Fay to learn about prevention. The main cause of almost all cases of skin cancer is exposure to harmful UV rays without protection. Lower socioeconomic groups are disproportionately affected with longer time to diagnosis and worse outcomes, Fay said. While melanoma accounts for only 1% of skin cancers, it affects approximately one in 27 men and one in 40 women during their lifetime.
“If Worcester kids have more access to sunscreen in our public parks, they’ll be more likely to use it and continue to do so later in life,” Fay said.
The UMass Chan School of Medicine awarded Fay $12,000 as seed funding for the project, which began during Melanoma Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that just under 100,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2022. About 7,650 people are expected to die of melanoma this year.
In mid-June, bright yellow dispensers with SPF 30 sunscreen will be installed in public city parks, including sports fields, playgrounds, nature trails and memorials. . Additionally, there will be vending machines at Worcester Housing Authority locations and areas where the city’s outdoor workers meet before starting their shifts. Fay also worked with the Worcester Red Sox. Fallon Health offered to fund 10 distributors for Polar Park.
Fay worked closely with Worcester City Councilor Kate Toomey and nonprofit IMPACT Melanoma to get the project off the ground. Fay presented the project to Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty and other city councilors, then began working with various city leaders for eight months.
“Last year I had to take a little something off my face,” Toomey said. “Everyone, whether you have light or dark skin or somewhere in between, you are all at risk of getting skin cancer. This is something we all need to be aware of.”
Fay will soon begin a year of skin oncology research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Associated media coverage:
Father’s fight against melanoma inspires UMass medical student Chan to get free sunscreen dispensers in public areas of Worcester
Free sunscreen dispensers are on their way to Worcester in time for summer