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Preventing Skin Cancer: Primary and Middle School Interventions

Task Force Finding

The Community Preventive Services Task Force  recommends primary and middle school interventions to prevent skin cancer, based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in increasing sun-protective behaviors and decreasing ultraviolet exposure, sunburn incidence, and formation of new moles.

Read the full Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement for details including implementation issues, possible added benefits, potential harms, and evidence gaps.

Intervention Definition

Primary and middle school (kindergarten through 8th grade) interventions to promote sun-protective behaviors include educational interventions, supportive behavioral interventions, and environmental and policy changes. Student-focused educational and behavioral interventions include teaching children about sun safety and the effects of ultra-violet (UV) radiation, which is often reinforced by modeling, demonstration, or role-playing. Interventions may be delivered in a single session or as a comprehensive multi-session curriculum.

Student-focused sun-protective environmental and policy changes include increasing the availability of sun-protective items (e.g., sunscreen or protective clothing); adding sun-protective features to the physical environment (e.g. shade structures); and implementing sun-protection policies (e.g., clothing guidelines, restrictions on outdoor activities during peak sunlight hours). Interventions also may include efforts to change the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of caregivers at school or at home.

About the Systematic Review

The Task Force finding presented on this page was made in August 2012. It was based on evidence from a Community Guide systematic review published in 2004 (Saraiya et al., 2004, search period January 1966- June 2000) combined with more recent evidence (search period June 2000-May 2011). Based on this updated review, the Task Force recommendation was changed from sufficient evidence to strong evidence of effectiveness.

The review was conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to preventing skin cancer.

Read a summary of findings from the earlier review or visit the Cancer Prevention and Control section of our publications page to access the complete articles. You can also subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified as new materials on this topic become available.

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Supporting Materials

Publication Status

Full peer-reviewed articles of this systematic review will be posted on the Community Guide website when published. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified when we post these publications or other materials. See our library for previous Community Guide publications on this and other topics.


Saraiya M, Glanz K, Briss P A, Nichols P, White C, Das D, et al. Interventions to prevent skin cancer by reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File[PDF - 788.2 kB] Am J Prev Med 2004;27(5):422-66.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services Task Force is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Preventing skin cancer: primary and middle school interventions (abbreviated). www.thecommunityguide.org/cancer/skin/education-policy/primaryandmiddleschools.html. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: August 2012