Keeping a daily record of sun-exposure behavior is the latest way for people to find out what they are doing wrong.
"There is precedent for this approach from other health behavior research," Karen Glanz, phd, mph, and her colleagues at the Cancer Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, wrote in The 1996 Skin Cancer Foundation Journal. Food diaries have been used successfully to help dieters keep track of what and how much they eat.
A pilot study, supported by a grant from The Skin Cancer Foundation, was instituted in Hawaii, where basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are extremely common. Since about 90% of skin cancers could be prevented by sun-protective practices, self-monitoring was seen as an effective way of making people aware of their sun exposure.
Subjects were recruited from among the general public and dermatology patients. Each participant was asked to fill out both a questionnaire and a diary. At the end of the study, the researchers drew the following conclusions:
- The diary provided a more precise measurement of individuals' sun-exposure behavior than did responses to questionnaires.
- Weekends account for the great majority of time spent outdoors; therefore, a four-day diary, including Saturday and Sunday, was sufficient to reveal sun habits.
- Alterations in sun exposure and/or protective habits brought about by participation in this study included avoiding the sun during peak hours, seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, including broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses, and applying a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater.
Dr. Glanz' co-authors are Rommel Silverio, ma, and Anna Farmer, rd, both of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii.