[4 min read] Are people aware of sun protection strategies and do they actually use them?

Are people aware of adequate sun protection measures and do they take appropriate steps to protect themselves from developing skin cancer? An exploratory study looked at the correspondence between knowledge, motivation and sun-protection practices among average people during vacations.

Seventeen holiday-makers aged 21–62 years old took part in individual face-to-face interviews and completed sun sensitivity questionnaires and an objective assessment of sunscreen use. Holiday-makers’ knowledge about sun-safe messages, intentions and perceptions of barriers and facilitators for sun-protection were assessed.

The study found that participants were well informed about sun-safe messages, highly motivated to protect themselves from solar UV radiation, and that they perceived themselves as well protected. However, they did not seem to use effective protective practices.

Sunscreen was the preferred method of sun protection, but most participants used considerably less than the recommended amount and significantly overestimated the amount of time they could be safely exposed. Seeking shade was the least used method of sun protection and covering up strategies (such as hats and sunglasses) were mostly implemented as a partial protection.

The desire to reach an optimal balance between getting a tan and using sun protection to avoid sunburns was preeminent. Several additional barriers and facilitators for sun-protection were identified.

The study concluded that holiday-makers might have a false sense of security when it comes to sun exposure. They are aware of the need to protect their skin from solar UV, but the motive for a safe tan, the over-reliance on sunscreen, the overestimation of the safe sun exposure time for their skin type and the insufficient application of sunscreen leaves holiday-makers motivated to protect their skin at significant risk of overexposure, sunburn and skin cancer.

The study recommended that public health messages need to address how to implement effective sun-safe strategies. Further, skin cancer doctors need to have informed and considered conversations with their patients about adequate sun protection.

Read more recent research.

Source: Angela M. Rodrigues, Falko F. Sniehotta, Mark A. Birch-Machin & Vera Araujo-Soares (2017) Aware, motivated and striving for a ‘safe tan’: an exploratory mixed-method study of sun-protection during holidays, Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, 5:1, 276-298, DOI: 10.1080/21642850.2017.1335205

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