Skin cancer risk and sun protection learning by helpers of patients with nonmelanoma skin cancer

June K. Robinson*, Alfred W. Rademaker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background. Knowledge-based skin cancer risk and prevention educational interventions by physicians and nurses were directed to subjects who had a nonmelanoma skin cancer. These high-risk patients asked relatives or friends to assist with postoperative care rendered after surgical removal of the skin cancer. The patient′s experience with the nonmelanoma skin cancer was expected to raise the awareness of the helper. The study examined whether the patient became a source of information, risk assessment, and skills training for his or her helper. Methods. Sequential patients between 30 and 60 years of age and their designated helpers completed a self-report questionnaire prior to the intervention and 1 year after the intervention. The questionnaire examined: (a) knowledge of skin cancer and sun protection; (b) individual susceptibility as determined by ease of sunburning or tanning; (c) attitudes about self-esteem, sun exposure, and health locus of control; (d) intentions to use sun protection; and (e) behaviors of sun protection used. Results. Over the course of 1 year, 200 pairs were entered into the study. Both patients and helpers demonstrated an increase in knowledge after the educational intervention with the patients. There was a change in the self-reported intention to use sun protection and the behaviors of sun protection used in both patients and helpers after the intervention; however, there was no attitudinal change demonstrated in pre- and post-tests for either patients or helpers. Among both patients and helpers, gender-specific differences in attitudes, intentions, and behaviors existed. Women expressed a greater likelihood of taking precautions, including the use of sunblock; however, men reported the protective strategy of wearing a hat more than women did. Men valued a tan more than women and had greater outdoor exposure, which they restricted after the intervention. Women helpers ceased using indoor tanning devices after the intervention. Behavioral change in use of sun protection measures, including protective clothing or sunblock use and decrease in hours of outdoor sun exposure or use of indoor tanning devices, was dependent upon the patient or helper′s own reported susceptibility as determined by his or her history of poor tanning and ease of sunburning. Conclusion. Patients transferred knowledge to their helpers. intention to change behavior and behavioral change were strongly correlated with the individual′s reported susceptibility to easy sunburning and poor tanning. Despite a lack of change in attitudes, changes in both intention to change behavior and behavior itself occurred in those who perceived themselves to be at risk. While the attitudes of participants in this study reflected popular beliefs, targeted education of high-risk adults with a nonmelanoma skin cancer caused changes in sun protection behaviors in both the patients and their helpers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-341
Number of pages9
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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