A randomized controlled trial of an appearance-focused intervention to prevent skin cancer

Joel Hillhouse, Rob Turrisi, Jerod Stapleton, June Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Skin cancer represents a significant health threat with over 1.3 million diagnoses, 8000 melanoma deaths, and more than $1 billion spent annually for skin cancer healthcare in the US. Despite findings from laboratory, case-control, and prospective studies that indicate a link between youthful indoor tanning (IT) and skin cancer, IT is increasing among US youth. Appearance-focused interventions represent a promising method to counteract these trends. METHODS. A total of 430 female indoor tanners were randomized into intervention or no intervention control conditions. Intervention participants received an appearance-focused booklet based on decision-theoretical models of health behavior. Outcome variables included self-reports of IT behavior and intentions, as well as measures of cognitive mediating variables. RESULTS. Normative increases in springtime IT rates were significantly lower (ie, over 35%) at 6-month follow-up in intervention versus control participants with similar reductions in future intentions. Mediation analyses revealed 6 cognitive variables (IT attitudes, fashion attitudes, perceived susceptibility to skin cancer and skin damage, subjective norms, and image norms) that significantly mediated change in IT behavior. CONCLUSIONS. The appearance-focused intervention demonstrated strong effects on IT behavior and intentions in young indoor tanners. Appearance-focused approaches to skin cancer prevention need to present alternative behaviors as well as alter IT attitudes. Mediational results provide guides for strengthening future appearance-focused interventions directed at behaviors that increase risk of skin cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3257-3266
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008


  • Control
  • Harm reduction
  • Melanoma
  • Prevention
  • Skin cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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