With skin cancer rates rising, much of it preventable, a new research project is to explore the role of primary schools in Wales and assess the effectiveness of sun safety policies in protecting children. The results will help improve prevention of skin cancer in Wales and beyond.
Skin cancer now accounts for half of all cancers in England and Wales, with Wales seeing a 79.6% rise in melanoma cases (one of two types of skin cancer) between 2002 and 2018. However, with melanoma, 86% of cases can be prevented through less exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet radiation.
Studies show that children who are badly sunburned are more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer when they are older. Children spend almost half their time at school often playing and learning outdoors, so one crucial way to prevent skin cancer is to teach children at school how to protect themselves from the sun.
Teaching sun safety is currently left to schools’ discretion in Wales. Some have a sun safety policy, which sets out how they will teach children about the subject, and what steps the school will take, for example on providing shade or helping to apply sunscreen.
The Swansea-led research team will examine what is currently being taught in Welsh schools about sun safety and what influence this has on the knowledge and behaviour of children, teachers, staff and school managers.
The project – called Sunproofed – involves experts from the Trials Unit at Swansea University Medical School, data experts from Swansea’s SAIL Databank, and NHS colleagues from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
The project will see the team:
- Send out a questionnaire to all primary schools in Wales to discover if they have a sun safety policy in place and to identify what support schools need in this area
- Evaluate NHS data on serious sunburn in children, using anonymised health records held by Swansea University’s SAIL Databank, to see what it reveals about the impact of sun safety policies
- Visit five schools -some with and some without a sun safety policy - to speak to children, parents, school staff and governors to find out what they know about sun safety
- Publish guidance for schools on the best way to implement a sun safety policy, working with school communities and experts in education and skin cancer
- Share findings with education and health leaders and publish them for fellow researchers to see
Dr Julie Peconi of Swansea University Medical School, lead researcher for the Sunproofed project, said:
“Rates of skin cancer are increasing in Wales, adding to the strain on already limited NHS resources. There is strong evidence that reducing sun exposure in children can help prevent skin cancer in later life, so an urgent shift from treatment to prevention is needed.
Education in schools can be a crucial way to achieve this. Our study is an essential first step, as it will give us a picture of the current situation in Wales and what can be done to improve it.
One of the outcomes of our study will be for participants to work together to write an action plan for schools. This will help schools to start using sun safe policies, keeping more children safe from skin cancer in later life.”
Details of the Sunproofed project have just been announced in the journal PLOS ONE, under the heading: “A mixed methods scoping study of sun safety policies in primary schools in Wales”.
Notes to editors:
Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university offering a first-class student experience and has one of the best employability rates of graduates in the UK. The University has the highest possible rating for teaching – the Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2018 and was commended for its high proportions of students achieving consistently outstanding outcomes.
Swansea climbed 14 places to 31st in the Guardian University Guide 2019, making us Wales’ top ranked university, with one of the best success rates of graduates gaining employment in the UK and the same overall satisfaction level as the Number 1 ranked university.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results saw Swansea make the ‘biggest leap among research-intensive institutions’ in the UK (Times Higher Education, December 2014) and achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK.
The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018. Swansea University now has 23 main partners, awarding joint degrees and post-graduate qualifications.
The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020 and aims to continue to extend its global reach and realise its domestic and international potential.
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Sunproofed study protocol: A mixed-methods scoping study of sun safety policies in primary schools in Wales
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