Can an hour or two of sun protection education keep the sunburn away? Evaluation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Sunwise School Program

Environ Health. 2003 Nov 3;2(1):13. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-2-13.


Background: Melanoma incidence is rising at a rate faster than any other preventable cancer in the United States. Childhood exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increases risk for skin cancer as an adult, thus starting positive sun protection habits early may be key to reducing the incidence of this disease.

Methods: The Environmental Protection Agency's SunWise School Program, a national environmental and health education program for sun safety of children in primary and secondary schools (grades K-8), was evaluated with surveys administered to participating students and faculty.

Results: Pretests (n = 5,625) and posttests (n = 5,028) were completed by students in 102 schools in 42 states. Significant improvement was noted for the three knowledge variables. Intentions to play in the shade increased from 68% to 75%(p < 0.001) with more modest changes in intentions to use sunscreen. Attitudes regarding healthiness of a tan also decreased significantly.

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

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Heliotherapy / adverse effects
  • Heliotherapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Illinois / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data
  • School Health Services*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Skin Care / methods*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunburn / epidemiology
  • Sunburn / prevention & control*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Sunscreening Agents