College of Pharmacy students visited local high schools to talk about skin cancer prevention as part of a community outreach program.

About 25 Western University of Health Sciences pharmacy students and faculty visited five local high schools – Pomona, Garey, Ganesha, Montclair and the School of Arts and Enterprise – in the past week.

Students watched a short video, “Dear 16-year-old Me,” that provided a firsthand perspective on melanoma. They answered survey questions about skin cancer before and after the presentation to gauge the effectiveness of the presentation. Students also answered questions for prizes and were encouraged to enter a poster competition on skin cancer awareness.

“We wanted to find different ways to have fun and also encourage them to keep up their knowledge and research after the presentation,” said second-year College of Pharmacy student Lusineh Keshishian, PharmD ’14, director of the cancer awareness subcommittee of the WesternU student chapter of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP).

WesternU’s CSHP chapter has organized skin cancer outreach for three years. This year marks a significant increase in scope – chapter members spoke to about 1,500 students at five schools this year compared to 200 students at one school last year.

CSHP received a $5,000 grant from the California Dialogue on Cancer, a coalition of cancer control leaders from throughout the state. The surveys comparing students’ awareness of skin cancer before and after the presentation were a key part of securing the funding, said College of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Doreen Pon, PharmD, BCOP.

“We were able to use the data to apply for grants, supporting the fact we were able to successfully educate students,” she said. “Ultimately we want to show we can change some of their sun safety behavior.”

In 2010, 68,130 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin, and 8,700 died from the disease, third-year College of Pharmacy student Michael Trillanes, PharmD ’13, told students at Garey High School. About two Californians die of melanoma each day. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Factors that make you more prone to skin cancer include exposure to sun, sunburn at an early age, and the use of tanning beds.

Everyone should wear sunscreen every day, even when it’s raining, said third-year College of Pharmacy student Felicia Molina, PharmD ’13. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every two hours and after excessive swimming or sweating. The sunscreen should be SPF 15 or higher.

Third-year pharmacy student Richard Garcia, PharmD ’13, returned to his alma mater, Ganesha High School, to present skin cancer information in the classroom of his former teacher, Dwayne Yamato.

“I find it joyful, just to be able to give back to my community and encourage them,” he said.

These types of presentations provide students with greater awareness, Yamato said.

“I teach my students there are always consequences of behavior,” he said. “I hope these students learn that this could happen. It is a deadly form of cancer and they need to be aware of it.”