Sun-Exposure Diary Uncovers Bad Habits

December 1, 1996
Oncology, ONCOLOGY Vol 10 No 12, Volume 10, Issue 12

Keeping a daily record of sun-exposure behavior is the latest way for people to find out what they are doing wrong.

Keeping a daily record of sun-exposure behavior is the latestway for people to find out what they are doing wrong.

"There is precedent for this approach from other health behaviorresearch," Karen Glanz, phd, mph, and her colleagues at theCancer Research Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, wrotein The 1996 Skin Cancer Foundation Journal. Food diaries havebeen used successfully to help dieters keep track of what andhow 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 carcinomasare extremely common. Since about 90% of skin cancers could beprevented by sun-protective practices, self-monitoring was seenas an effective way of making people aware of their sun exposure.

Subjects were recruited from among the general public and dermatologypatients. Each participant was asked to fill out both a questionnaireand a diary. At the end of the study, the researchers drew thefollowing 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, wassufficient to reveal sun habits.
  • Alterations in sun exposure and/or protective habits broughtabout by participation in this study included avoiding the sunduring peak hours, seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing,including broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses, and applying a sunscreenwith 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.