Studies Related to Skin Protection and Sun Safety

Efforts to promote skin protection and sun safety in the United Kingdom and Australia have showed disappointing results.  According to the authors, Australia presented “intensive publicity” for things like reef friendly sunscreen in the 30 years leading up to 1995 but nonetheless was at the forefront of an “epidemic” with the number of skin cancer cases.  Studies like this one show that the presentation of information does not necessarily lead to behavioral change. Why is this the case? What sorts of limitations stand in the way of helping these issues?

Unlike issues such as smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse in which public policies can be created to prevent children from exposure through age purchasing restrictions, limitations on advertising and laws preventing use, sun exposure is an issue created by one’s environment.  Sun exposure at an early age could be due to a parent not providing a child with sunscreen or a child playing in a schoolyard without adequate shade.  The child cannot be at fault for the lack of knowledge/prevention awareness that a parent or other authority may have. Another limitation was discussed in reference to much of the research that delivered sun- safety knowledge.  It did so in a “fragmented nature,” in the words of the content analysis.  Researchers only focused on limited factors of specific interventions in sun safety, such as culture, peer pressure, lack of knowledge, etc.

The last limitation discussed is the definition of sun safety.  The authors suggest that the definition is too narrow and that sun safety is too often “misleadingly” grouped with issues such as “healthy eating, smoking avoidance/cessation, and responsible drinking,” all conventional health- promotion issues.  Being grouped with other issues draws away from the importance of the message, according to researchers who scrutinized the comparison study.