Skin Cancer Risk Behaviors
A Conceptual Framework for Complex Behavioral Change
In a related editorial, Joel Hillhouse, Ph.D., from East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, and Rob Turrisi, Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, discuss the complexities involved in and strategies for eliciting change in patients' sun-tanning behaviors.
"To effectively reduce tanning behaviors, it is critical to make the attitudes toward healthy alternatives more positive than the behaviors we wish to reduce... This empirical approach provides a theoretical framework that explains why, in most cases, simply telling young people that their current behaviors will lead them to suffer future grave consequences will not alter their behaviors."
Examining current information from web sites devoted to skin cancer prevention, Drs. Hillhouse and Turrisi found little agreement on many recommendations for protecting oneself from the sun, including how much is safe and the times of day to avoid the sun. Additionally, indoor tanning was only sporadically mentioned as a risk factor.
The editorialists stated the need for a clear, consistent message about UV exposure and how that message should be delivered: "We have evidence that in many situations and with a number of individuals, other message deliverers [aside from one's physicians], such as parents and peers, can be more effective at leading young people to reduce skin harming behaviors."
They conclude by saying: "We believe that the time is right for a paradigm shift in this field toward a more theoretical and empirical approach that attempts to maximize "skin risky" behavior change in our patients and the general population."