Design and implementation of a health promotion program to prevent the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation at primary school students of rural areas of Greece


  • Maria Sakoufaki Department of Public Health, Attica Region, Greece
  • Aravella Stergiopoulou Department of Dermatology - Venereology, Andreas Sygros Hospital, Athens, Greece
  • Alexander Stratigos Department of Dermatology - Venereology, Andreas Sygros Hospital, Athens, Greece



School health promotion, Skin cancer prevention, Sunscreen, Sun protection, Sun effects


Background: Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer presenting with a dramatic increase in its incidence among Caucasian populations worldwide. Primary prevention in childhood and early detection is important in reducing the risk of skin cancer later in life.The objectives of the study were to investigate the effect of a focused educational intervention in school children aiming to increase their knowledge about the harmful effects of sun exposure and promote prevention behaviors regarding skin cancer

Methods: The study consisted of a before/after 6-month assessment of a school intervention program applied in two hundred children from four primary Schools (Grades 3-6) at a rural area in Western Greece. The program included the presentation and distribution of educational material (activity guide, manual for pupils, posters). A detailed questionnaire with close-ended questions was distributed before and after the intervention. Both between and in groups analysis was conducted.

Results: Of the participating pupils, 48% were boys, whereas 78.5% reported a fair skin complexion and 79% reported freckles and 1-20 nevi. After the intervention, an increased number of pupils were taught to enjoy sun exposure while avoiding its harmful effects. A significantly greater number of children stated proper use of sunscreen (74% vs. 31%, p=0.001) and sun protection (that avoided going outside especially at the intense hours of daily UV exposure (65% vs. 25.5% prior to the intervention). Melanoma awareness was also significantly raised.

Conclusions: Students’ knowledge about the effects of sun exposure as well as the need for sun protection increased following a targeted and well-designed educational intervention. The development of preventive educational programs on skin cancer for school children is important to increase awareness in this sensitive age group.


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