A University Helps the Community Stay Sun-Safe

Photo of health educators from the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute

Health educators from the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute pose with their mascot. Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute.

The University of Arizona Skin Cancer Instituteexternal icon (SCI) has been a valuable resource for Southern Arizonans since 2006. The SCI brings together innovative research, visionary clinical care, and life-changing education and outreach. Health educators aim to raise community awareness of skin cancer and educate the public on skin cancer prevention and early detection strategies through presentations, teacher trainings, and material development. As early efforts of the SCI expanded, it became apparent that the small staff could not meet requests for services.

“We couldn’t possibly meet the needs of our community with our limited staff, so we decided to use a resource the University has plenty of: students,” said Dr. Robin Harris, SCI Director. The SCI piloted Project SASSexternal icon (Students are Sun Safe) in 2010. Project SASS trains University of Arizona undergraduate and graduate students in health sciences to become peer and community educators for skin cancer risk reduction. These students teach lessons on sun safety and skin cancer prevention in middle and high school classrooms throughout the area. To date, 315 University of Arizona students have been trained in skin cancer prevention strategies and have delivered lessons to more than 5,700 middle and high school students with enthusiasm and success. Evaluation of the program in 2014 indicated that Project SASS resulted in changed perceptions of susceptibility and tanning appeal, gained knowledge across participants, and altered intentions to change behavior.

Project SASS is just one of the programs at the SCI that align with the strategic goals set forth in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Through the Protect Your Skin program, the SCI created mobile sunscreen stations that can be rented for use at outdoor community events and low-cost sunscreen kits that can be placed more permanently in outdoor settings. These kits include a gallon of sunscreen, two dispensers, and signage with reminders on how to use and apply sunscreen effectively. More than 75 of these kits have been distributed to organizations such as recreation centers, police departments, roofing companies, and schools.

Through the Baby Hats Program, the SCI provides a line of sun-safe hats for infants and young children. The hats are available at local retailers for a low cost, and come with printed sun-safety materials for parents.

The SCI hosts annual community events, including a Melanoma Walk and a luncheon with guest speakers who talk about skin cancer research and patient care. The SCI also maintains an active presence on Facebook along with a comprehensive web page and quarterly newsletters.

More information on The University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute can be found at www.azskincancerinstitute.org.external icon