School-based interventions to improve sun-safe knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in childhood and adolescence: A systematic review

Prev Med. 2021 May;146:106459. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106459. Epub 2021 Feb 17.


Ultraviolet radiation exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and childhood and adolescence is a particularly susceptible life period for exposure. This systematic review assessed whether interventions in elementary and secondary school settings reduced sun exposure, sunburns, and development of melanocytic nevi, and improved sun-safe knowledge, attitudes and sun protection behaviors in childhood and adolescence. A systematic search up to June 2020 of MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane and ProQuest databases was undertaken, for studies conducted among students in an elementary or secondary school setting that compared an intervention group with a pre-intervention or separate control group. Data were summarized using qualitative synthesis. Pooled effects from meta-analysis with random effects were also reported where appropriate. Sixty-five studies were included (22 randomized, 43 non-randomized). Most studies assessed measures of sun-safe behaviors, knowledge and attitudes (57, 48 and 33 studies, respectively), and observed improved sun protection behaviors and sun-safe knowledge, whereas few studies reduced time in the sun. About half improved participants' attitudes towards tanning desirability. Sunburns and nevus counts were less frequently assessed, but about half of these studies observed a reduction. There was substantial heterogeneity for outcomes except attitudes towards the desirability of tanning (pooled odds ratio from 6 studies: 0.81, 95% confidence interval 0.70-0.94). Key positive intervention features included: elementary school settings, interactive features or multiple components, and incorporating social norm influences. Most studies were classified at high risk of bias. In conclusion, school-based sun-related interventions had positive impacts on behaviors and attitudes among elementary and secondary school children.

Keywords: Attitudes; Children; Intervention; Knowledge; Sun protection.

Publication types

  • Review