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Cancer risk awareness may lead to sun protection behaviour

Findings from a recent study suggest that an individual’s awareness of their skin cancer risk may reduce risky behaviour including tanning bed use.

The paper was published in Dermatologic Surgery (Jan. 2022; 48(1):34-38)


For the study, a survey was mailed to 886 residents in Minnesota and Wisconsin (549, aged 18–39 years; 337, aged ≥40 years).

"We know there is a large increase in the number of young and middle-aged women who are getting melanoma, compared to 40 years ago," said the study’s lead author Dr. Jerry Brewer, in a press release. "This study demonstrated that individuals who were at higher risk for skin cancer not only had an accurate self-assessment of their risk but were also unlikely to use a tanning bed within the next year."

Dr. Brewer is a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

The study noted these findings:

  • Most people in the study were female and had a previous history of tanning bed use.

  • People with a previous history of tanning bed use viewed their skin cancer risk to be higher than peers who did not use a tanning bed.

  • People in this study had an appropriate knowledge base of their skin cancer risk.

"Melanoma is on the rise. We also know that tanning beds play a significant factor in melanoma development. In this study, it was nice to see that having an accurate perception of skin cancer and a perceived high risk of skin cancer development was associated with less chance of tanning bed use within the next year," said Dr. Brewer.

The authors note that while more research is needed, their findings indicate that an understanding of potential cancer risk is associated with behaviour modification related to tanning bed use.

"More studies would help clarify some of the questions regarding skin cancer risk, perceived risk, and what accurately predicts behaviour modification pertaining to skin cancer development," said Dr. Brewer.

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