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Medical students and sun prevention: knowledge and behaviours in France


  • Conflict of Interest
    Authors declare no conflict of interest concerning this article.

  • Funding Sources
    This work was supported by a grant from the University Versailles–Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (BQR2009).

Emmanuel Mahé. E-mail:


Background  High sun exposure is a major risk factor of skin cancer, and physicians are first-line players in a sun-risk prevention campaign.

Objectives  To survey medical students at the end of their general medical education about their knowledge and behaviours concerning natural and artificial sun risk and its prevention.

Methods  A 32-question survey was e-mailed to fifth or sixth year medical school students or first-year resident, attending residency-exam preparatory courses in Paris.

Results  Among 1,374 students, 570 (41.7%) completed the questionnaires. General aspects of sun-protection measures were known to >75% but responses to specific questions, mainly the impact of environmental conditions on sun risk, were frequently erroneous. Although most students declared using sunscreen and avoiding peak hours, 39% never or exceptionally (<1/year) performed skin self-examination. Fewer than one-third wore long sleeves or cap/hat in the sun, and tanning beds were used by 13.5%, but their regulations remained unknown by 30–68%.

Conclusion  The sixth year of medical school signals the end of non-specialized training. Students’ results and practices were almost comparable to those of the French general population. Medical schools might not be providing adequate sun-protection education programmes, perhaps diminishing the ability of future doctors to educate patients.