Nicole Vecin, a third-year M.D./M.P.H. candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is one of the few medical students whose research has been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Spanish-Speakers and Sun Protective Behaviors: A Cross-Sectional Study” focused on the association between the primary spoken language and sun-protective practices. Sun-protective practices include using sunscreen, wearing long sleeves and avoiding direct sunlight—all critical tools in preventing skin disorders such as melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and actinic keratosis.
“Findings of this study suggest that limited English proficiency may play a role in risky sun-protective practices,” Vecin said. “Health care providers should be attentive to language barriers when providing non-English speaking patients with sun protection education.”
“It is a tremendous honor to be able to add to the scientific literature through my publication in JAAD,” Vecin added. “As the granddaughter of Cuban exiles, I have a personal connection with language barriers in the Hispanic/Latinx population. Through JAAD’s platform, my work on language barriers in the Hispanic/Latinx community can reach an international audience.”
Data used for the research include the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multivariate and univariate logistic regression models and unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios were also used. All analyses were appropriately weighted with survey sample weights to account for the complex sampling design.
This study found that Spanish speakers are less likely to engage in sun-protective practices than English speakers. Findings may suggest that limited English proficiency leading to poor health literacy plays a role in risky sun-protective practices among Spanish speakers. The results of this pilot study may have implications for skin cancer risk in racial/ethnic minority groups, especially in those individuals who are non-English speaking.
“Nicole has been an amazing M.D./M.P.H. student whose tenacity supported her through the analysis of complex, nationally representative data of the U.S. population in an area of her public health and clinical interest," said Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H., deputy director of Sylvester’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative, and assistant professor of public health sciences. "It has been wonderful watching and supporting her in using the methodology and analytic skills learned in the classroom as she applies them to real-world public health analyses. Her findings, published in the top-tier journal of dermatology, now add to the scientific literature the impact primary language spoken has on risky health behaviors like sun-protective practices.”
Vecin plans on further investigating factors that contribute to disproportionate engagement in sun-protective practices among Spanish-speaking individuals. This will allow her to continue pursuing her passion for addressing health disparities experienced by the Hispanic/Latinx population.
"I am honored to be able to elucidate health disparities challenging Hispanic/Latinx communities and hope to continue my research endeavors to combat them," Vecin said. “I feel that it is my purpose to do my part in countering the health disparities that many non-English speaking individuals face.”