Melanoma incidence is continuously increasing over the decades and Sweden has one of the highest melanoma incidence rates in the world (Source: WHO). Thus it is extremely important to make the younger generation aware of the melanoma risk factors and how it can be prevented by simple daily lifestyle changes.
For this purpose we wanted to connect with the high school students from our city Lund, to spread the awareness about melanoma and associated prevention measures. On the 5th of June 2018, we got the opportunity to visit a school in Lund and give a presentation to students who were on their last year before proceeding to the college. These students already had a background in biological science, which provided us with the liberty of explaining the research our lab is doing along with the basic information about melanoma. We also distributed flyers on skin characteristics and which type of sunscreen is suitable for a particular skin type. We thought that raising awareness for the use of sunscreen and taking caution when it comes to being too exposed to UV radiation, was much more important in this context. After all, Scandinavian countries have the highest number of skin cancer cases in all Europe – and this represents the urgency to change mentalities regarding how dangerous the sun exposure can be.
We also displayed the use of smartphone applications useful to keep track of changes in the skin and identify the appearance of moles as malignant. Last but not the least, we showed the class a stunning video taken with UV-camera on how sunscreen protects the skin from sunlight which they really liked.
It was extremely rewarding for us to see how interested the students were in the topic, and to feel for an hour that we were actually making a difference to change not only their behaviour, but maybe their families’ and friends’ as well. This activity helped us concluding that step by step, it is possible to improve the prevention of this horrible disease a lot.
In this presentation we also talked about the different stages of melanoma and examples about current treatments and cancer recurrence, as our doctoral researches are focusing on. The students showed a lot of interest about the treatment options and therapy resistant cases and, because of their knowledge in pre-medical subjects,we were asked many questions on molecular mechanisms underpinning it. It was definitely stimulating to see 18-years old young mind so curious on the topic!
This entire endeavour would not have been possible without our principal investigator Dr. Göran Jönsson’s support and his friend Annika Sommarin who is a teacher of these students and kindly helped us to organise this one hour seminar. Overall, this experience was very motivating for us as the interests that students showed definitely welcomed us reach out to people not only in schools, but also towards general public to make science more easily accessible and fun!
As researchers, we are glad that we took this unique opportunity and engaged in the task of raising public awareness about our researches, which we believe is a general responsibility of the medical and scientific community.
Written by: Adriana Sanna, Rita Cabrita and Shamik Mitra.