Module 13: Levels
of Disease Prevention
about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.
Preventing any disease
can be grouped into three levels. The levels are named for the stages of
disease they target. The three levels of prevention are primary,
secondary, and tertiary.
Three Levels of Prevention
We use primary
prevention methods before the person gets the disease. Primary prevention
aims to prevent the disease from occurring. So primary prevention reduces
both the incidence and prevalence of a disease. (See module
5 for definitions of "incidence" and
"prevalence.") Encouraging people to protect themselves from the
sun's ultraviolet rays is an example of primary prevention of skin cancer.
Secondary prevention is
- after the disease
has occurred, but
- before the person
notices that anything is wrong.
A doctor checking for
suspicious skin growths is an example of secondary prevention of skin
cancer. The goal of secondary prevention is to find and treat disease
early. In many cases, the disease can be cured.
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targets the person who already has symptoms of the disease
The goals of tertiary
- prevent damage and
pain from the disease
- slow down the
- prevent the disease
from causing other problems (These are called
- give better care to
people with the disease
- make people with the
disease healthy again and able to do what they used to do
treatments for melanoma is an example of tertiary prevention. Examples
include better surgeries, new medicines, etc.
Check out the following
Web sites to learn more about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention
of skin cancer:
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- Visit some of the sites above. Then list some examples of skin
cancer prevention. List at least two examples for each of the three
prevention levels. Who would you target with each of the methods you
- Find out what your school is doing to protect staff and students
from the sun. Have they built shade structures or planted trees? Do
they encourage students to wear hats and protective clothes when
outside? Do they have sunscreen that students can use?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently studied
school health policies and programs on sun exposure and protection.
For the results of the study, go to
http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/shpps/summaries/health_ed/index.htm and look at tables 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6.
- Australia has the world's highest rate of skin cancer. Two out of
three people there get skin cancer by the age of 75. Australian public
health officials and lawmakers now encourage sun-smart habits in
schools. Check out recommended sun protection policies for Australian
schools at: http://www.sunsmart.com.au/schools/school1.htm.*
Look at both primary school and secondary school policies. Do you
think policies like these could work at schools in the United States?
Why or why not?
- California recently passed a law that says California schools must
let children wear sun protective clothes at school. What are
your thoughts on the law? What kind of barrier was the law trying to
overcome? Does your state or school have a law or rule that prevents
you from wearing hats or wearing sunscreens?
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* Links to
non-Federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. Links
do not constitute an endorsement of any organization by CDC or the Federal
Government, and none should be inferred. The CDC is not responsible for the
content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.