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August 2007

Teens and TansImplementing Behavioral Change

Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(8):1058-1061. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.8.1058

In this issue of the Archives, Ma et al1 report that, in their study group, white Hispanic (WH) students were less educated regarding skin cancer prevention, tanned more frequently and more deeply, and were 2.5 times more likely to have used a tanning bed than white non-Hispanic (WNH) students. Also, WH students were less likely than WNH students to use sunscreen and wear sun-protective clothing and perceived themselves at lower risk for the development of skin cancer. Ma and colleagues conclude that skin cancer prevention programs directed toward young persons also need to include WH students. From a national health perpective, who is the target population of skin cancer prevention campaigns? The target population is all teenagers. Peer pressure and societal norms affect all teenagers, regardless of skin type. Indoor tanning is a widespread social activity of teenagers; therefore, a teenager with skin type III or IV may be invited to accompany his or her friend to the tanning salon, with participation in tanning an expected activity. However, the real issue is figuring out what actually changes behavior in this age group. Is it providing more information to improve knowledge? Is it targeting motivation that will truly make a difference in reducing overall teen tanning?

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