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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 May;46(5):683-9.

The Environmental Protection Agency's National SunWise School Program: sun protection education in US schools (1999-2000).

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



Melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancer, is rising at a rate faster than that of all preventable cancers except lung cancer in the United States. Childhood exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increases the risk for skin cancer as an adult; thus starting positive sun protection habits early may be key to reducing incidence.


We evaluated the US Environmental Protection Agency's SunWise School Program, a national, environmental education program for sun safety of children in primary and secondary schools (kindergarten through eighth grade). The program was evaluated with surveys administered to participating students. An identical 18-question, self-administered survey was completed by students (median age, 10 years) in the classroom before and immediately after the SunWise educational program.


Surveys were completed by students in 40 schools before (pretests; n = 1894) and after the program was presented (post-tests; n = 1815). Significant improvement was noted for the 3 knowledge variables: appropriate type of sunscreen to be used for outdoor play, highest UV Index number, and need for hats and shirts outside. Intentions to play in the shade increased from 73% to 78% (P <.001), with more modest changes in intentions to use sunscreen. Attitudes regarding healthiness of a tan also decreased significantly.


Brief, standardized sun protection education can be efficiently interwoven into school health education and result in improvements in knowledge and positive intentions for sun protection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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