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Cancer Control Research

Mahler, Heike I.


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): In spite of extensive educational programs designed to increase awareness of the relation between sun exposure and skin cancer, the majority of adolescents and young adults continue to report intentional exposure to the sun in order to get a tan. In addition, few young people report using adequate sun protection during incidental exposure, and the use of indoor tanning facilities has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. The primary goal of the proposed project is to examine the efficacy of an attractiveness-based (rather than health-based) approach to changing sun exposure and sun protection behaviors. Specifically, the project will examine the effects of an intervention that utilizes photoaging information and UV detect photographs of participants' faces that reveal the amount of damage they have already sustained. This intervention makes the negative appearance consequences of sun exposure more salient and immediate for participants. There are 7 proposed studies that, together, will build on previous UV intervention studies in a number of important ways. First, this research will be conducted with populations that have seldom been targeted by UV protection interventions, i.e., outdoor workers, regular tanning booth users, and people who are sunbathing at beaches. Second, the research will be conducted in California and Iowa, sites that allow the exploration of the efficacy of the intervention (and theoretical questions of interest) among groups with quite different patterns of UV exposure. Third, objective assessment of behavior change at follow-up sessions will be included (i.e., measurement of skin melanin content using a spectrophotometer), a significant improvement over previous reliance on self-reports of intentions or exposure. Fourth, the use of instant UV detect photography to reveal the underlying skin damage of participants will provide highly personal feedback as part of the intervention. Finally, the proposed studies will test hypotheses derived from social psychological theories (particularly, Social Comparison Theory and the Prototype/Willingness Model) to identify factors that moderate and mediate the efficacy of the intervention. Thus, the studies should provide useful information about process as well as outcome.

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