Does Knowledge Influence Melanoma-Prone Behavior? Awareness, Exposure, and Sun Protection Among Five Social Groups

Kerry Guile

Steve Nicholson

ONF 2004, 31(3), 641-646. DOI: 10.1188/04.ONF.641-646

Purpose/Objectives: To examine melanoma-related knowledge, sun exposure, and sun protection to determine whether increased awareness is associated with a reduction in risk.

Design: Quantitative/empiricist study conducted by purpose-designed mailed questionnaire.

Participants: Consultant oncologists at one teaching hospital in London, England; specialist registrars (oncologists in training) contacted through a London-based educational group; oncology-trained nursing staff from oncology departments at two London teaching hospitals; medical students; general (nononcology) nurses; and members of the lay public from one London teaching hospital.

Setting: Two teaching hospitals in London, both registered cancer centers that possess specialist departments of oncology and are staffed by clinical and medical oncologists.

Methods: Anonymous, self-completion, mailed questionnaire.

Research Variables: Sun exposure; use of sun protection and avoidance; knowledge of the biologic effects of sun exposure, moles, and malignant melanoma; melanoma-prone behavior.

Findings: No significant differences were found in sun exposure or melanoma-prone behavior across the five groups studied. No correlation existed between knowledge and melanoma-prone behavior. Differences in knowledge and protection scores were demonstrated across all groups and were statistically significant, but they did not translate into changes in exposure or behavior scores.

Conclusions: Public health policy that seeks to reduce the incidence of melanoma is based on the false premise that increasing awareness of melanoma risk will reduce melanoma-prone behavior. Increasing awareness of the risks of sun exposure may improve the use of sun protection, but it does not reduce melanoma-prone behavior, even among specialist healthcare professionals.

Implications for Nursing: This study provides a new epidemiologic tool for nurses working in the specialty.

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