Predictors of sun protection behaviours and sunburn among Australian adolescents
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BACKGROUND: Excessive sun exposure and sunburn increase individuals' risk of skin cancer. It is especially important to prevent sunburn in childhood due to the higher relative risk of skin cancer across the life span compared to risk associated with sunburn episodes experienced later in life. This study examined demographic and attitudinal factors associated with engagement in a range of sun protection behaviours (wearing a hat, wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade, and staying indoors during the middle of the day) and the frequency of sunburn among Western Australian adolescents to provide insights of relevance for future sun protection campaigns. METHODS: Cross-sectional telephone surveys were conducted annually with Western Australians between 2005/06 and 2014/15. The results from 4150 adolescents aged 14-17 years were used to conduct a path analysis of factors predicting various sun protection behaviours and sunburn. RESULTS: Significant primary predictors of the sun protection behaviours included in the study were skin type (sun sensitivity), gender, tanning-related attitudes and behaviours, and perceived relevance of public service advertisements that advocate sun protection. Of the four sun protection behaviours investigated, staying in the shade and staying indoors during the middle of the day were associated with a lower frequency of sunburn. CONCLUSION: There is a particular need to target sun protection messages at adolescent males who are less likely to engage in the most effective sun protection behaviours and demonstrate an increased propensity to experience sunburn. The results suggest that such future sun protection messages should include a focus on the importance of staying in the shade or indoors during periods of high UV radiation to increase awareness of the efficacy of these methods of avoiding skin cancer.
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