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Behavioral Intervention Crucial in Reducing Students’ Risk of Skin Cancer

Jun 21, 2017

Behavioral intervention is crucial in reducing students’ risk of skin cancer later in life, as up to 75% of men and women report never conducting self-checks for skin cancer.

The use of tanning beds, ability to identify what skin cancer looks like and frequency of self-checks are among the behaviors tracked in a research study published in the journal Radiation Therapist.

Researchers from Texas State University in San Marcos surveyed more than 500 students in 2014 and 2015 to gauge their behavior and knowledge regarding skin cancer. The researchers gathered demographic data and asked three main questions to guide the research:

  • Do you use tanning salons?
  • Do you know what skin cancer looks like?
  • Do you conduct self-examinations for skin cancer?

Respondents’ gender makeup was 72.46% women and 27.54% men. Ethnicity group makeup was 35.35% white, 35.55% Hispanic and 29.10% African-American.

“We chose to focus on how students use tanning beds as the allure of a fashionable tan is still high and we overheard students at a health science fair discussing that it was safer to tan in a tanning bed than out in the sun,” said Megan Trad, Ph.D., R.T.(T), associate professor for the Texas State University Radiation Therapy Program. “This made us wonder how many students really were using these facilities and if there was any specific demographic that was using them more than others. Identifying this could help in understanding if there is a specific sector of the population that needs more education on this topic, or education geared specifically towards them.” 

According to the research results, the use of tanning beds did not differ significantly between sexes, with 15% of women and 8% of men reporting that they used tanning beds. Participants in the three demographic groups differed statistically in their use of tanning beds. White students reported using tanning beds at a 25% rate compared to 8% of Hispanics and 5% of African-Americans.

There was a difference among the sexes when asked if they knew what skin cancer looks like, with 38% of female students reporting they knew, while 29% of men said they could identify it.

However, when asked if they performed yearly self-checks for skin cancer, 17% of women and 9% of men said they perform checks. Concerning class level, 78% of freshman, 75% of sophomores, 74% of juniors and 66% of seniors reported that they never conduct skin cancer checks.

“Radiation therapists treat skin cancer and are in a unique position to educate people about screening and prevention methods,” said Dr. Trad. “The survey results indicate that much work remains in educating university students about skin cancer, its warning signs and the dangers of using tanning beds as college students are in a period where they’re traversing their lives and early behavioral intervention is key to reduce the risk of skin cancer.”

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