“We Don’t Really Do Anything Unless it’s Really Bad”: Understanding Adolescent Sun Protective Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors in the U.S.
Risk factors for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, include lifetime sun exposure and a history of sunburns. However, a minority of adolescents report consistent engagement in sun protective behaviors. The few sun protection interventions that have targeted adolescents have had little effect on behavior change, which suggests that a better understanding of the issue, especially from the adolescents’ perspective, is needed. Although efforts to qualitatively examine adolescent sun protection have been carried out in a handful of countries, no studies to date have focused on U.S. adolescents. We conducted focus groups with 44 6th–8th grade students in Colorado to explore their sun protection knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Results supported previous findings that adolescents do not engage in regular skin protection but have experienced the negative consequences of sun exposure (e.g., severe sun burns, and blistering). In addition, participants demonstrated limited and sometimes inaccurate knowledge about the long-term risks of sun exposure, as well as effective methods of sun protection. Barriers to engaging in sun protective behaviors included a desire to tan, inconvenience, and physical discomfort. Facilitators included peer and family encouragement, previous experience with sunburns and/or skin cancer, and knowledge of potential consequences. These findings provide valuable insights that can inform future intervention and research related to sun protection among U.S. adolescents.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10935-018-0515-x
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