Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

UM Cancer Researchers Win Contract to Evaluate Sun Safety Program in Palm Beach County Schools


The University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation in West Palm Beach, has been awarded a grant from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate a school-based sun safety curriculum in Palm Beach public schools. The collaboration officially begins in Palm Beach classrooms on Monday, August 29.

“We’re very excited,” said Jer Zenieris, Ph.D., executive director of the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation. “Our program has been in existence for almost 10 years now, in Palm Beach, Broward, Dade and Monroe counties, but this is our first grant to evaluate the curriculum. It’s also the first collaboration between UM and the foundation to get NIH funding for prevention.”

The grant will team specialists from the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, the College of Education, the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and from the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation. Two health educators will visit a variety of classrooms throughout the school year, measuring knowledge of sun safety and appraising the effectiveness of the training.

The entities were awarded funding to evaluate SunSmart America, a curriculum in use in schools in South Florida. SunSmart America is based on the very successful SunSmart program begun in Australia and was developed here by the Kann Melanoma Foundation for grades K through 12. The program has won numerous awards and it meets all academic requirements of the State of Florida. The Foundation is named for Richard David Kann, a native of Miami Beach who died of melanoma at age 44. This five-year, $1.5 million award was announced late last year.

On the team from UM are Robert Kirsner, M.D. and Fangchao Ma, M.D., M.P.H., from dermatology and UM/Sylvester; Ann Bessell, Ph.D., from the College of Education; and Zeneiris, from the Kann Foundation.

These collaborators will evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of elementary and middle school students in Palm Beach County relating to skin cancer as they participate in a skin cancer education curriculum. Based on that knowledge, the program will identify and implement steps to improve behavior among students when it comes to protecting themselves from the sun.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 132,000 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year and more than 20,000 will die. More than 4,600 Floridians will be diagnosed this year with melanoma – the deadliest skin cancer. Among all 50 states, only California has more cases of melanoma and other skin cancers than Florida.

The incidence of skin cancer is increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main risk factor. Since more than half of a person’s lifetime UVR exposure occurs before the age of 18, it is vitally important to educate children to reduce their skin cancer risk. Schools provide an important venue to teach and study adolescent behavior. This grant will help researchers study sun protective behaviors and will provide critical information needed to reduce the future burden of skin cancer. Lessons learned from this project will be used to improve the curriculum and expand its use in other school districts in Florida and throughout the nation.

UM/Sylvester was founded in 1992 to provide comprehensive cancer services and today serves as the hub for cancer-related research, diagnosis, and treatment at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. UM/Sylvester handles more than 1,300 inpatient admissions annually, performs 2,900 surgical procedures, and treats 3,000 new cancer patients. All UM/Sylvester physicians are on the faculty of the Miller School of Medicine, South Florida’s only academic medical center. In addition, UM/Sylvester physicians and scientists are engaged in more than 150 clinical trials and receive more than $31 million annually in research grants. UM/Sylvester at Deerfield Beach recently opened to better meet the needs of residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties. This 10,000-square-foot facility at I-95 and S.W. 10th Street offers appointments with physicians from six cancer specialties, complementary therapies from the Courtelis Center, and education and outreach events.

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