CHICAGO (Wednesday, April 3, 2002) - Following in the U.S. Women’s National Team tradition of connecting with the fans and the community, the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team has formed a unique and unprecedented partnership with The Skin Cancer Foundation with the goal of raising awareness of a disease that effects over one million people a year in the United States.
This year will be the most important and historic ever for the U.S U-19s as they chase history with continuing preparations for the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament in Trinidad & Tobago from May 5-12. The top two teams from that tournament will advance to the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship to be held in Canada from Aug. 17 to Sept. 1, 2002.
Through clinics, appearances at schools and interaction with the media, the U-19s will make it a team goal to inform the public that almost all skin cancers are preventable and curable when detected and treated early. With skin cancer being the most common form of cancer in women age 25-29, and with most people having received 50 to 80 perfect of their lifetime sun exposure by the age of 18, the cause is close to the hearts of the U.S. U-19s who spend hours in the sun on soccer fields every year. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.
With the increased attention focused on the U-19s this year as they attempt to qualify for the World Championships and then follow in the pioneering footsteps of their veteran forerunners and win the first-ever world championship for youth women, the Under-19 Women as a group wanted to use their status as role models for other teenagers to educate and bring attention to the cause.
"As a team, we have become aware that skin cancer effects far more people that we realized," said U.S. U-19 defender and team captain Keeley Dowling. "Since we are outdoors all the time, we have learned how important it is to protect our skin and we think, at the same time, it is important to educating the kids and people who come to watch us play. A bunch of us on the team know someone who has been effected by skin cancer and we just want to do all we can do to help in the prevention of the disease."
While the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has more than tripled among Caucasians between 1980 and 2002, everyone is at risk for developing this disease. One person dies of melanoma every hour. Almost one in four people who develop melanoma in the United States are under 40 years of age.
"Skin cancer prevention is an issue that isn't addressed as much as it should be," said U.S. U-19 head coach Tracey Leone. "When people are young, they don't feel threatened by it, so to have these talented young athletes spreading the word about prevention at such a young age is vitally important since that is when the real damage from the sun is done. When kids are young, they feel invincible, but they can be smart in preventing the disease later in life."
The U-19s will spread sun safety tips through words and literature that stress The Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendations: to limit time in the sun, avoid the times of day when the rays are most harmful (from the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), wear hats and sunglasses, stay out of tanning salons and most of all, wear lots of sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater.
“We are delighted to be working with the U.S. Soccer Federation and these remarkable young athletes,” said Mitzi Moulds, the executive director of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “For these athletic role models to take the initiative in using their sport and their competitions to spread awareness of the dangers of skin cancer in this day and age is truly impressive. The bottom line is that these athletes will be helping to save lives by increasing knowledge, and that’s a wonderful gift.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation, founded in 1979, is the only organization concerned solely with the world’s most common malignancy – cancer of the skin. A non-profit, independent foundation, it conducts public and medical education programs and provides support for medical training and research to help reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality of the desease. For more information, visit the website at www.skincancer.org or call 1-800-SKIN-490.