She’s known as the Skin Cancer Prevention Queen, and she’s taking her passion for prevention to classrooms near and far. Lois Loescher, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Skin Cancer Institute at the UA Cancer Center will soon release results from an adaptation of her Students Are Sun-Safe (SASS) program tailored for high school students living along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Started five years ago to reach high school students who generally act invincible and often do not adequately protect themselves, the original SASS peer mentoring project trained UA Health Sciences students. Armed with a sun safety PowerPoint presentation, UA students were sent to educate local high school and middle school students about skin cancer risk. During that time more than 200 UA students reached nearly 3,000 Tucson students.
Flash forward to today: Funded by the Arizona Area Health Education Program (AzAHEC), Loescher hopes to fill statistical gaps in our knowledge of sun safety behaviors in Hispanic populations through the adapted border youth project SASS. Partnering with Nogales’ Southeast Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) ensured that the training was age appropriate and sensitive to the culture of border youth.
“For Project SASS, we adapted the model to train 18 students in Bisbee, Douglas and Nogales High schools to be the peer educators,” said Loescher. “We recruited from school-based health career clubs that attract students who really want to go to college to build a better life. These kids are amazing. A couple of them have been accepted into Ivy League universities.”
After receiving SASS training, the students were assigned to present to at least 250 of their classmates. The results of Loescher’s study, for which she tested the students before and immediately after training as well as testing three months later, will build a bank of the border students’ knowledge, attitudes and self-reported sun safety behaviors. “We have very little information on skin cancer risk factors in Hispanic populations,” she said. “When we’re done we’ll have numbers that give us a more accurate view.”