Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Influence of age, gender, educational level and self-estimation of skin type on sun exposure habits and readiness to increase sun protection.

Influence of age, gender, educational level and self-estimation of skin type on sun exposure habits and readiness to increase sun protection.

Jan 2013


Research and Development Unit for Local Health Care, County of Östergötland, 581 85 Linköping, Sweden; Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Community Medicine, Primary Care, Linköping University, 581 85 Linköping, Sweden. Electronic address:


Background: Sun exposure habits and the propensity to undertake sun protection differ between individuals. Not least in primary prevention of skin cancer, aiming at reducing ultraviolet (UV) exposure, knowledge about these factors may be of importance. The aim of the present study was to investigate, in a primary health care (PHC) population, the relationship between sun exposure habits/sun protection behaviour/readiness to increase sun protection and gender, age, educational level and skin UV-sensitivity. 

Methods: The baseline data from a previously performed RCT on skin cancer prevention was used. 415 patients, aged >18 years, visiting a PHC centre in southern Sweden, filled-out a questionnaire mapping sun exposure, readiness to increase sun protection according to the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change (TTM), and the above mentioned factors. 

Results: Female gender was associated with more frequent suntanning (p<0.001) and sunbed use (p<0.05), but also with more extensive sunscreen use (p<0.001). High age was in general associated with low level of sun exposure and high level of protection. Subjects with low educational level reported less frequent sunscreen use than those with higher educational level, and also chose lower SPF (p<0.001). For almost all parameters, high skin UV-sensitivity was associated with markedly lower sun exposure (p<0.001) and more pronounced readiness to increase sun protection. Females and subjects with high educational level reported higher readiness to increase sunscreen use than males and subjects with lower educational level (p<0.001). 

Conclusions: Gender, age, educational level and skin type appear to be important factors affecting sun exposure habits and sun protection behaviour, which supports the idea of appropriate mapping of these factors in patients in order to individualise sun protection advice according to the individual patient situation and capabilities.

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