Skin Cancer Communication Project

UPenn researchers are developing and testing campaign messages to reduce indoor and outdoor UV exposure among adults ages 18-49

Project Title: Reducing UV Exposure to Prevent Skin Cancer: Message Development and Testing 

Principal Investigators: Karen Glanz and Amy Jordan

Project Coordinator: Caroline La Rochelle 

Project Dates: 2014-2019

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from artificial tanning devices. The occurrence of sunburns and practice of indoor tanning are prevalent among adults, especially young adults. However, most skin cancers could be prevented if people would avoid indoor tanning and consistently use effective sun protection, including wearing broad spectrum sunscreen, clothing that covers arms and legs, sunglasses, and finding shade.

Effective health communication through media channels can contribute to skin cancer prevention in important ways, especially if the messages are targeted to specific groups. This research assessed the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of adults aged 18 to 49 years in order to develop effective messages and communication strategies for two categories of skin cancer risk behaviors: indoor tanning and outdoor sun exposure. The messages were aimed at females aged 18-25 who frequently indoor tan, as well as all adults ages 18-49 who are exposed to the sun outdoors. In this study we:

  • Conducted formative assessments of attitudes and beliefs related to indoor tanning and outdoor sun exposure among adults ages 18 to 49
  • Translated key findings into the development of a set of core messages aimed at reducing UV exposure
  • Tested the effects of the messages on the target audience(s) in terms of affective, physiological, and behavioral outcomes
  • Engaged key national organizations for skin cancer prevention to disseminate recommendations and core messages and to leverage their involvement for further development and evaluation of effective skin cancer communications


Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection Behaviors

The latest paper from the Skin Cancer Communication Project was published online in the October 2019 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal. Skin cancer prevention practices aim to reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that  causes skin … Read more

CDC features the findings of Penn’s Skin Cancer Communication Project

The CDC recently released their 5th annual Skin Cancer Prevention Progress Report. The report features findings, highlights, and success stories from their community of partners since the 2018 report. Page 9 of the document contains a full page summary of … Read more

Frequent Indoor Tanners’ Beliefs About Indoor Tanning and Cessation

What is already known on this topic? Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, affecting more than 3.5 million people. Indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancer. In the United … Read more

Correlates of sun protection behaviors in racially and ethnically diverse U.S. adults.

The Skin Cancer Communication Project focuses on understanding indoor tanning in young women and outdoor sun exposure and protection in 18-49 year-old adults. Researchers at Penn surveyed a racially diverse group to determine how they view skin cancer prevention methods. Trends … Read more

Taking more than one precaution to prevent skin cancer

Bleakley A, Lazovich D, Jordan AB, Glanz K. Compensation Behaviors and Skin Cancer Prevention, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 6, December 2018, Pages 848-855 In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers evaluate the beliefs in sun … Read more

A national survey of young women’s beliefs about quitting indoor tanning: implications for health communication messages

Indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer, particularly among young, white women. Our researchers found that persuasive health messages that encourage young women to quit indoor tanning should focus on their beliefs that it helps their appearance and … Read more