Nursing faculty to showcase collaborative research on skin cancer at international conference

Research from faculty at the West Virginia University School of Nursing  will be a featured poster presentation at the International Conference on Nursing Science in Dallas, Texas, June 26-28.  

Amy Bruce, a senior lecturer and student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the School of Nursing, will present “Influential Factors Relating to Sun Protective Behavior in Adults: A State of the Science,” which focuses on the importance of education and prevention in addressing issues related to skin cancer. The abstract and poster presentation were developed by Bruce and fellow faculty members Drs. Laurie Theeke, associate professor, and Jennifer Mallow, associate professor. Additionally, the team's work on the topic was recently published in the International Journal of Nursing Sciences.

The team noted the important role healthcare providers play in tailoring interventions to address each patient individually, while also providing counseling options to encourage change in behaviors that lead to cases of skin cancer. Additionally the group identified the need for advanced practice nurses to be more proactive in initiating skin cancer screenings, particularly to medically underserved patients.

For Bruce, skin cancer is personal. In April 2013 she lost a friend, instructor and co-worker to skin cancer. “It was a terrible situation; she was young. She had a mole on her back, and by the time she had it looked at, it had already spread. It’s a deadly form of cancer that moves quickly. She left behind a family, including three small children.”

This tragedy prompted her to focus on the topic during her health promotion capstone course. As part of her research for the course, Bruce identified the high rates of melanoma in West Virginia – higher than the national averages.

“West Virginians spend a lot of time outdoors, working and playing. As I was researching statistics for my coursework, the growth rate of skin cancer among people from West Virginia, particularly males, was shocking,” explained Bruce. The rate of melanoma diagnoses in West Virginia is one of the fastest growing cancers behind liver and bile cancers. The death rates among West Virginians 65 years and older due to melanoma continue to increase by nearly three percent each year. “Sadly, it is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in young adults ages 25-29,” said Bruce.

As part of her efforts to increase awareness and education to help prevent the disease, she successfully submitted a proclamation in 2015 to declare May as National Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month in West Virginia. Then Governor Earl Ray Tomblin accepted and signed the proclamation.

“This disease is preventable and curable, if detected early. Nurses always lead the way in terms of preventative treatment and implementing change to improve lives. I am honored to represent the team's work on this important topic and the School of Nursing at this conference,” said Bruce.