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03-03-2011 | Article

Sun protection low in relatives of skin cancer patients

Abstract

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MedWire News: Relatives of melanoma patients are ignoring sun safety advice, despite having an increased risk for skin cancer, researchers report.

The findings indicate that family members at risk for melanoma might benefit from interventions highlighting the efficacy of sun protection and reducing the perceived benefits of sunbathing and tanning.

Sharon Manne (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA) and colleagues evaluated a number of demographic, medical, psychological, and social factors that might influence sun protection and sunbathing behavior in 545 first-degree relatives of patients with melanoma.

They found that relatives were more likely to use sun protection if they were well educated, did not perceive sunbathing as beneficial, were aware of the efficacy of sun protection, had greater concerns about photo-aging, and had healthy attitudes to sun protection.

The relatives most likely to report higher levels of sunbathing were younger, tended to be female, endorsed fewer sunscreen barriers, saw sunbathing as beneficial, and thought tanned skin was attractive.

The researchers note in the online journal BMC Public Health that the sun protection or exposure behavior of relatives was not influenced by the severity of the patient's cancer or the fact that the relatives' own melanoma risk was increased.

They suggest that interventions to improve sun protection for family members at possible risk for melanoma should highlight the improvements in the ease of sunscreen use, including the incorporation of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen in moisturizers and the development of spray on and unscented, non-greasy versions.

Emphasizing the cosmetic and photo-aging effects of sun exposure on people's appearance by using age-progressed pictures could also be effective at promoting sun protection, particularly among younger people.

"In view of the rising incidence of melanoma, the development and testing of such interventions is an important public health issue," Manne and team comment.

They also say that "general practitioners should ask about a family history of skin cancer and refer these individuals to a dermatologist."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper