The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2015

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

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more reward (perhaps endorphin-related) when tanning. SCF: What can parents and educators do to motivate young people to stop tanning? What approach works best, focusing on skin cancer, or focusing on appearance — teaching them that the short-term gain from a tan only leads to not-so-distant pre- mature aging? The research on this still tilts toward the ap- pearance-based approach. Certainly, finding out that a family member (or oneself) has skin cancer will have a huge impact—more so than any fear of looking wrinkled down the road— but we have based much of our research on the belief that the most effective way to combat a particular motivated social behav- ior like tanning is to use the same motivation that drives the behavior to stop it or reduce it. ("You tan to look better, but here is evidence that your tanning is making you—or will make you—look worse.") SCF: Do young men and young women have different reasons for tanning and ig- noring sun protection? Do they have to be reached in different ways? How? Quite a few young men tan, but clearly the rates are higher among young women. One reason for that is obvious—young women are more motivated to expose more of their bodies— and get strong reinforcement from having those exposed parts look good. On the other hand, whereas some of the reasons not to use protection are the same for both genders (e.g., it is greasy, it's a nuisance, etc.), it's more socially acceptable for women than men to be diligent about sunscreen. Our re- search has shown that for a number of men, sunscreen use is not considered masculine or cool. Protective clothing may be a better angle to take with men (baseball caps, long "shorts," etc.). Overall, the appearance-based approach probably works a little better with women, but generally the approach is similar for both men and women. SCF: How effective are the UV-detect cam- eras—which show people the UV damage to their skin — in discouraging young peo- ple from tanning? Can they produce LAST- ING changes in behavior? They are quite effective. We have seen many young people genuinely startled by the amount of damage revealed by their UV pho- tos. There is some denial, but young people these days are very tech-savvy, and it is not hard to convince them that the technology provides a pretty accurate photo of what they are doing to themselves. How long the ef- fects last is a huge question. Our research has demonstrated effects lasting well over a year. This approach may fare better than others in that it clearly links the risk behavior with the unwanted outcome, AND it is very personal (like personalized medicine), so that when someone sits down on a beach to get tanned and envisions what they will look like with a nice tan glow, they are more likely to also think about the potential damage they are doing to their appearance. The tricky ques- tion is, how do you get people to use sun- screen and other protection on a daily basis when the goal is to avoid damage rather than seek tanned skin? Still, that image of them- selves with unappealing splotches on the face should help people remember (and want) to use protection. SCF: Can anything be done to reverse peoples' idea that being tan is beautiful and healthy and make them embrace their own skin color as an ideal? It's not that tanning necessarily equates to "healthy" as much as it did maybe 35 years ago—there has been progress in that re- gard—but the perception that one looks better with a tan has endured in spite of in- creasing evidence of the risks associated with the look. It would take a commitment from a large number of very visible individuals (celebrities, athletes, etc) to counter the "tan is good" perspective. Also, more of them who have experienced skin problems (e.g., Hugh Jackman; Derek Lowe; Diane Keaton; Mela- nie Griffith; Michelle Monaghan) speaking out about it will help a lot (maybe more than they realize). "Pale is pretty" campaigns have met with limited success. It will take a combined effort from many socially influential people to change attitudes like this. MEG GERRARD, PHD, and Rick Gibbons, PhD, are social psychologists at the University of Con- necticut. They study social factors related to health behavior and health status. Much of their research has focused on why adolescents and young adults en- gage in unhealthy behaviors, such as substance use, risky sex, and sun exposure, even though they know those behaviors are risky. Their research has been funded for many years by the National Institutes of Health. 55 how do we stop?

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