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Health Educ Res. 2008 Oct;23(5):763-9. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

The impact of an appearance-based educational intervention on adolescent intention to use sunscreen.

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Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03756, USA.


During adolescence, there is a steady decline in the use of sun protection and increased use of indoor tanning lights. Previous health education efforts have changed knowledge but not these behaviors. Middle school students (n=113) received a single educational class that included personal viewing of skin changes visible under ultraviolet (UV) filtered light. Pre-/post-surveys assessed past, current and future intent to use sunscreen, as well as sun benefit and sun risk attitudes. Prior to the session, 42% were sunscreen non-users and 21% were consistent users. At post-test, one-third of students who had not previously intended to use sunscreen in the next month now intended to use it. Among students who had seen skin damage, 59% reported intention to use sunscreen in the next month versus 35% who did not see skin changes (P = 0.04). Viewing sun damage was an independent predictor of intent to use sunscreen in the next month (OR 2.9, P = 0.04), as was older age (OR 2.6, P = 0.04) and previous consistent sunscreen use (OR 6.1, P = 0.004). A brief educational intervention that emphasizes risk-to-appearance and personalizes the risks of UV exposure has the potential to influence early adolescent sun protection. Long-term studies of this approach are needed.

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