Cancer nurse Kerry Guile, who has developed a new skin cancer questionnaire and used it to test whether awareness would lead to behaviour modification, discovered that in her study at least, it hasn't.
Even oncologists and cancer nurses, who scored well when it came to their knowledge of the sun and skin cancer and what they should do to protect themselves, were not acting on the lessons they were giving the public.
"My study showed that they were continuing to expose themselves intentionally to undesirable amounts of UV radiation, despite their universally high awareness of risk factors for malignant melanoma," she said. "The implication behind prevention programmes is that higher levels of awareness lead to behaviour modification, and prevention programmes have been based on the opinion that increased knowledge of risk factors for skin cancer will lead to a change in sun-related habits. The relationship between knowledge, perceived risk of disease and preventive behaviour is more complex."
Ms Guile, senior chemotherapy sister at St George's Hospital, London, UK, who presented the results of her new questionnaire in a research poster at the conference, said that similar studies had questioned medical students and the public, but not healthcare professionals.
She designed SAMPLE (the Sun Awareness/Melanoma-Prone Lifestyle Enquiry) as a tool for researchers interested in studying the epidemiology of malignant melanoma the most dangerous form of skin cancer. SAMPLE comprises more than 30 questions related to exposure, sun protection behaviour and knowledge about moles, melanom
Contact: Margaret Willson
Federation of European Cancer Societies