• Main Messages:
Unlike many cancers, skin cancer is a disease that is mostly avoidable. The main cause is exposure to sunlight and a few simple precautions can reduce the risk of contracting the disease. The main messages are:
Take care not to get sun burnt by:
- covering up with loose fitting clothes, wearing a hat and sunglasses
- seeking the shade in the middle of the day (11am – 3pm)
- wearing a high factor sunscreen (factor 15+)
- Over 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with skin cancer every year
- Around 2000 people die because of skin cancer each year
- It is the second most common cancer in the country
- Over the past 15 years the incidence has doubled and continues to rise
• Research of effective health promotion approaches
Campaigns (The Australian experience) :
A community based, media led campaign in Australia was proven to be effective in raising awareness of the dangers of skin cancer and in encouraging people to change their behaviour in the sun. (Hill et al, 1993) The Australian campaign used paid and unpaid publicity, education and schools work, marketing and retail initiatives and professional development of Primary Healthcare Teams.
Evaluation after 3 years showed a drop in the number of people reporting sun burn from 11% – 7%, an increase in hat wearing from 19% to 29% and an increase in sun screen usage from 12% to 21%. After 6 years the campaign is reported to be effectively bridging the boundaries of age, gender, socio-economic status, educational levels and geographical location, and is successful in keeping the message in the public consciousness.
However, some of the considerable gains achieved in the first three years have now started to level off. Future campaigns will concentrate on promoting structural change in the community e.g. providing shade and timetabling outdoor events away from peak UV periods. They will also target high-risk groups such as adolescents, and people pursuing outdoor activities. (Sinclair 1995.)
Campaigns (The English experience) :
The English Health Education Authority’s ‘Sun Know How’ campaign is now in its 5th year. The campaign follows the community based, media led Australian campaign. Organisers of the English campaign visited Australia in 1995 and reported back some of their successes. (Webb, 1995.)
Evaluating effectiveness in terms of improvement in mortality and morbidity figures is impossible because of the long time lapse between the risky behaviour and the development of skin cancer. Evaluations measure the intermediate outcomes of improvements in knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, analysis of print and broadcast media and public awareness of the campaign. The Health Education Monitoring Survey, which has been conducted annually since 1995, includes questions on skin cancer.
Over time the answers to these questions will monitor changes in people’s knowledge about skin cancer, their attitudes towards sunbathing and their behavior in the sun. The Sun Know How Campaign Evaluation 1996 (Grey 1996) compares survey results with the previous year.
Single interventions :
There is little research on single interventions. A school-based initiative in Northern Ireland (Ulster Cancer Foundation, 1994) proved effective in increasing the knowledge and awareness of safe sun exposure in primary school children. The project was integrated within the broader context of the school curriculum.
• Web Site
National Cancer Institute http://www.nci.nih.gov
Grey A “Sun Know How Campaign Evaluation 1996” HEA London
Health Education Authority, Office of National Statistics “Health in England 1996”.
Hill, D., White, V., Marks, R., Borland, R. (1993) “Changes in the sun-related attitudes and behaviours, and reduced sunburn prevalence on a population at high risk of melanoma”. European Journal of Cancer Prevention Vol 2, 447-456.
Sinclair, C., (1995) “The 1993 – 1994 Sunsmart Campaign Summary”. Anti Cancer Council of Victoria.
Ulster Cancer Foundation (1994) “Get Sunwise Teachers Guide Introduction”. Ulster Cancer Foundation and Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland.
Webb, G. (1995) “Australian skin cancer education initiatives in Victoria and New South Wales” HEA Information Sheet.