Pharmacist-Led Sun Safety Education Can Expand Skin Cancer Awareness


A recent study proved community pharmacies are model settings for skin cancer prevention education in rural communities with insufficient access to health care services.

Skin cancer is diagnosed more each year than all cancers combined, making it the most common cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is responsible for 90% of diagnosed nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Skin cancer can be prevented by reducing sun exposure and has a 99% 5-year survival rate when detected early.1

Pharmacists often provide counseling regarding photosensitivity, a common drug adverse effect and are well-versed in over-the-counter products that prevent and treat sunburn. Their position is ideal to educate the public on skin cancer prevention.

A study published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association outlines Skin Cancer Awareness Now! (SCAN!), a sun safety project led by community pharmacists and pharmacy students. This study proved community pharmacies are model settings for skin cancer prevention education in rural communities with insufficient access to health care services.2

The study authors piloted SCAN! in the Appalachian region—a vast medically underserved area with high skin cancer mortality. This vulnerable population needs accessible melanoma prevention and screening.

SCAN! had 2 elements: training for pharmacists and pharmacy students, and a 5–10-minute face-to-face counseling session delivered by those who were trained. Trainers recruited potentially eligible participants or obtained consent from patients presenting to participating pharmacies for routine services.

Trainers started their counseling with the Environmental Protection Agency’s sun safety handout, underscoring the importance of protective clothing, sunscreen, hat, shade, and sunglasses. Trainers also discussed the American Academy of Dermatology’s ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving) skin cancer acronym, and challenges patients may face while seeking preventive care. Participants completed a short postintervention survey.

Survey results indicated strong acceptance of and willingness to follow counseling recommendations.

A study limitation was the small sample size (n=90). A larger scale study is warranted to emphasize the positive influence SCAN! can have in the community pharmacy setting.

Pharmacist intervention can positively impact skin cancer’s ever-growing morbidity and mortality by providing underserved populations with access to prevention and sun safety awareness.

Sara L. Tolliday, PharmD, RPh is a full-time pharmacist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, Outpatient Pharmacy, Dover, New Hampshire.


  1. Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics. The Skin Cancer Foundation. Accessed 6 Jul 2021.
  2. Kelly KM, Dhumal T, Scott VG, et al. SCAN! A pharmacy-based, sun safety feasibility study. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2021;61(1):e69-e79. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2020.10.004.

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