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Sun Lovers Apply Screen, Not Knowledge

Researchers find sun damage education spurs protection not avoidance

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

FRIDAY, Aug. 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Showing beachgoers signs of sun damage and teaching them about sun protection can motivate them to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.

But it doesn't mean they'll spend less time in the sun, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

They provided Lake Michigan beachgoers with free sunscreen, education about the risks of sunbathing and photos taken with a special ultraviolet (UV) camera that reveals skin damage already suffered by the beachgoers.

The study found that, two months later, the people who received this information were more likely than others to protect themselves from the sun. But they didn't reduce the amount of time they spent in the sun each week.

That could be because sunbathers who use sunscreen believe they're safe from the risks of sun exposure, the researchers suggest. But they add the best method of skin cancer prevention is avoiding sun exposure completely, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays pose the most danger.

The study included 100 people. Half of them received the full intervention, which included a questionnaire about their sun protection habits. The other 50 received only the questionnaire. Two months later, 49 percent of the people who received the full intervention said they were closer to making a change in their sun habits, compared to 25 percent in the other group.

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Health Psychology.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about skin cancer.

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, August 2003
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