According to the World Health Organization (WHO), « the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades. Currently, […] one in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer ».
Indeed, melanoma is an important public health issue in Canada; it is now estimated that 7200 canadians will have a diagnosis of melanoma in 2017. Moreover, it can affect a relatively young population, and the prognostic is poor if it is not caught in its early stage. There are many individual risk factors for developing melanoma, such as sunburns during childhood and teenage years. However, there are not enough campaigns to raise awareness and, unfortunately, media often portrays tanned skin as a criteria for beauty. In this context, a campaign aimed at educating the public could therefore help modulate teenagers’ attitude towards their exposition to UV rays.
The « SPOT It » project was created in 2013 and approved by the Sherbrooke faculty of Medicine. It consists of a presentation of approximately 40 minutes, given by medical students from Quebec, and is designed for high school students grades 9 to 11.
Three major themes are addressed during the presentation:
- The deleterious effects of UV rays on the skin on an esthetic level (wrinkles, brown spots, skin thickening)
- Skin cancers with emphasis on melanoma (risk factors, how to detect it, prognostic)
- Methods of prevention and early detection (sun protection, skin inspection, alternatives to tanning)
The approach is highly interactive; the students are encouraged to ask questions and to discuss the different themes addressed during the presentation. Everything is done in a friendly atmosphere which encourages the students to examine their own habits and knowledge concerning tanning. The goal is obviously not to scare them, but rather to provide them with relevant information, and to give them a sense of empowerment and control over their decisions facing sun exposure.
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