A Social Media-Delivered Melanoma Prevention Program for Young Women Engaged in Frequent UV Tanning: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

Jerod L. Stapleton, Sharon L. Manne, Sherry L. Pagoto, Allison Leip, Kathryn Greene, Joel J. Hillhouse, Allison S. Merritt, Brent J. Shelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Rates of melanoma have increased dramatically in the United States over the past 25 years, and it has become among the most prevalent cancers for young adult women. Intentional skin tanning leads to a pattern of intense and intermittent UV radiation exposure that is associated with increased risk of melanoma. Frequent tanning is most common among young women and is linked to a variety of sociocultural pressures that negatively impact body image and drive appearance control behaviors. Unfortunately, there are no established interventions designed for frequent tanners. This intervention addresses this gap with unique content informed by body image and acceptance-based interventions. The intervention is delivered using Facebook secret groups, an approach designed to support behavior change and ensure scalability. Objective: This study aims to describe the rationale and methodology of a randomized controlled trial of a melanoma prevention program targeting young women engaged in frequent indoor or outdoor UV tanning. Methods: Participants are women aged 18-25 years who report high-risk tanning (ie, at least 10 indoor tanning sessions in the past 12 months or 10 outdoor sessions in the previous summer). After recruitment and screening, participants completed a baseline survey and were randomly assigned to receive the intervention or an attention-matched control condition. Both conditions were 8-week-long Facebook groups (approximately 25 members each) with daily posting of content. Follow-up surveys are administered at 3, 8, and 18 months after baseline. The primary trial outcome is the combined number of indoor and outdoor tanning sessions reported at the 8-month follow-up. Hypothesized intervention mediators are assessed at the 3-month follow-up. Results: This project was funded by a National Cancer Institute award (R01 CA218068), and the trial procedures were approved by the University of Kentucky Institutional Review Board in February 2020. Trial recruitment and enrollment occurred in 6 waves of data collection, which started in February 2022 and closed in May 2023. The study is closed to enrollment but remains open for follow-ups, and this protocol report was prepared before data analyses. As of February 2024, all participants have completed the 8-month follow-up assessment, and data collection is scheduled to close by the end of 2024 after the collection of the 18-month follow-up. Conclusions: This trial will contribute unique knowledge to the field of skin cancer prevention, as no fully powered trials have examined the efficacy of an intervention designed for frequent indoor or outdoor tanning. The trial may also contribute evidence of the value in translating principles of body image and acceptance-based interventions into the field of skin cancer prevention and beyond. If successful, the use of the Facebook platform is intended to aid in dissemination as it provides a way to embed the intervention into individuals' everyday routines.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56562
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 JMIR Publications Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • Facebook
  • acceptance and commitment therapy
  • body image
  • dissonance-based intervention
  • eHealth
  • indoor tanning bed
  • melanoma
  • randomized controlled trial
  • skin cancer
  • social media
  • sunbathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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