What is it about?

Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the world and rates continue to rise. In the United Kingdom there is now a 1 in 5 chance of developing the disease and dermatologists now spend 50% of their time treating skin cancer. However, skin cancer is also very preventable by avoiding over exposure to the sun’s Ultra Violet rays (UV) rays. 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 playing and learning outdoors, and one way to prevent skin cancer is to teach children at school how to protect themselves from the sun’s UV rays. A sun safety policy is a programme or procedure that schools use that sets out how they will teach and protect children from the sun while at school. A policy may include how the school will provide shade or if teachers can help with sunscreen. This paper explains the methods we will use to understand how primary schools in Wales are responding to the growing problem of skin cancer and how we will explore the effectiveness of any sun safety policies and identify what support schools need in this area.

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Why is it important?

Children should be free to enjoy the sun safely without the worry of developing future skin cancer. With this study we will better understand what schools in Wales are doing to help children protect themselves and how this can be improved. In Wales, despite our rainy weather, skin cancer rates are rising. This is having a big impact on limited NHS resources and having a knock on effect in the care of other skin conditions. However, estimates suggest that 86% of melanoma skin cancer is preventable with safer sun exposure. Health guidelines recommend children take extra care to avoid sun damage. But urgent education is also needed: in the United Kingdom, knowledge about reducing skin cancer through sun safe behaviours needs improvement and understanding sun exposure risks are mixed. Educating primary school children about sun safety has helped stop rising skin cancer rates in Australia. Major Health Organisations, professionals and charities all recommend sun safety is taught in schools. However, unlike in England, where sun safety education is now compulsory it is still up to individual schools in Wales to implement their own policies and sun safety education is not mandatory. This research is important so that we can understand the current landscape in Welsh schools including what support schools need in this area to help children enjoy the sun safely and stay healthier for longer.


As a volunteer with the charity Skin Care Cymru, I see how hard dermatologists and charities are working in the fight against skin cancer. It was when my son got sunburned at school during sports day that got me thinking about the role of schools in skin cancer prevention and spurred me on to apply for this research funding. I’m very grateful to Health and Care Research Wales for funding this work and hope that we can really make a difference for future generations of Wales.

Julie Peconi
Swansea University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Sunproofed study protocol: A mixed-methods scoping study of sun safety policies in primary schools in Wales, PLoS ONE, May 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0268141.
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