SPOTS (Sun Protection Outreach Teaching by Students) represents the first educational program of its kind in which medical students-in-training teach teens and children about skin cancer detection and prevention.
- 1 in 5 Americans will have skin cancer in their lifetime, and early intervention is key.
- The SPOTS program focuses on adolescents, a high-risk group.
- SPOTS is a free educational, interactive, and comprehensive yet concise 1 hour presentation focusing on the prevention of skin cancer.
- The program makes the importance of sun protection resonate with teenagers. Understanding that adolescents are highly motivated by their physical appearance, SPOTS uses both health-based and appearance-based motivators to encourage teens to use sun protection and avoid tanning beds.
- Since teens are strongly influenced by peers, the program incorporates a video of two teenagers describing their personal journey with melanoma and uses young medical students as SPOTS instructors. Medical students are young enough to be relatable but have the credibility to be impactful.
- Sun protection is important for everyone – even people with darker skin that doesn’t burn easily. Some skin cancers also present differently on darker skin. We created a module that focuses on skin cancer prevention and early detection for teenagers with skin-of-color.
- There's data to support the positive impact of SPOTS. Read our July 2021 published research.
SPOTS’ goal is to decrease the rising rate of skin cancer. Yet in the process, the program also seeks to learn about current student attitudes and behaviors towards sun protection and tanning, such as which sun protective measures students currently use. This information informs effective teaching methods in the effort to change poor sun protection behaviors. The program is primarily student-run, which contributes to its sustainability.
To date, the SPOTS chapters in St. Louis, Missouri have trained more than 600 medical student teachers who have taught more than 39,000 middle- and high-school students at over 30 public and private schools. This is phenomenal reach, and when multiplied across chapters in other cities as we continue to grow, our program has the potential to impact a substantial portion of the population.