Health literacy, sunscreen and sunbed use: an uneasy association

E Altsitsiadis, T Undheim, Esther Vries, B Hinrichs, E Stockfleth, M Trakatelli

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Background Skin cancer can largely be prevented by avoiding unsafe ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure. The evidence on potential drivers of sunscreen and sunbed use is extensive, yet in some cases, such as education, remains rather unclear. Health literacy is receiving increasing attention, but its effect on tanning decisions has not yet been explored. Objectives To explore the association between health literacy and tanning behaviour, in terms of sunscreen and sunbed use. Methods Self-reported data were collected through a common questionnaire in eight European countries under a common protocol. A three-item measure was used to assess health literacy; one item was collected to measure current sunscreen use and one item to measure current sunbed use. Descriptive statistics and analysis of variance tests were applied to explore the profile of sunbed and sunscreen users and health literacy among a number of variables. Univariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to assess the relation between health literacy and sunscreen and sunbed use. Results Univariate results suggested that health literacy has opposite effects on sunscreen use vs. sunbed use. Increased health literacy was associated with the skin cancer protective practice of using sunscreen, but also with more sunbed use. In the multivariate models, health literacy had a significant effect only on sunscreen use. Conclusions The findings suggest that health literacy can be an interesting approach for influencing sunscreen use. In the case of sunbeds, based on the findings and contrary to what was expected, it can be argued that interventions targeting health literacy seem less likely to reduce sunbed use. More research is needed to elucidate the effect of health literacy on sunscreen and sunbed use in order to improve UVR prevention strategies.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)14-21
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Research programs

  • EMC MM-03-61-05-A
  • EMC NIHES-02-65-02

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