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


Jordan A, Bleakley A, Alber J, Lazovich D, Glanz K.  Developing and testing message strategies to reduce indoor tanning.  In Press,  American Journal of Health Behavior, 2020.

Bleakley A, Jordan A, Strasser A, Lazovich D, Glanz K. Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection Behaviors. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Oct 2019, 54(2):108-118

Calderón TA, Bleakley A, Jordan AB, Lazovich D, Glanz K. Correlates of sun protection behaviors in racially and ethnically diverse U.S. adults. Prevention Medicine Reports, Mar 2019; 13:346-353

Bleakley A, Lazovich D, Jordan A, Glanz K. Compensation Behaviors and Skin Cancer Prevention, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dec 2018, 55(6): 848-855

Bleakley A, Jordan A, Ellithorpe M, Lazovich D, Grossman S, Glanz K, A national survey of young women’s beliefs about quitting indoor tanning: implications for health communication messages, Translational Behavioral Medicine, Dec 2018, 8(6):898–906.

Glanz K, Jordan A, Lazovich D, Bleakley A. Frequent Indoor Tanners’ Beliefs About Indoor Tanning and Cessation. American Journal of Health Promotion, July 2018; 33(2), 293–299.

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The CDC recently released its 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 […]

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

Skin cancer prevention practices aim to reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that  causes skin cancer. There are several behaviors that can protect the skin from the harmful radiation – using sunscreen, wearing hats and shirts, and […]

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 in skin cancer diagnosis and survival among minority populations, coupled with low prevalence of engagement […]

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In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers evaluate the beliefs in sun protection behaviors versus the risk of skin cancer. It is known that practicing multiple behaviors against harmful UV rays, yet few adults report practicing more […]

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