Examining a Web-Based Behavioral Intervention to Promote Sun Protection and Skin Self-Exams in Melanoma Patients

Source: CISION, March 2019

Researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and University of Virginia Center for Behavioral Health and Technology have found that a web-based intervention targeting sun protection behaviors and skin self-examinations in melanoma patients is effective in promoting short-term improvements in these activities. Findings from the work are being presented as part of an oral presentation at the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Annual Meeting taking place this week in Washington, D.C.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 1.2 million people in the United States have a personal history of melanoma – considered the deadliest of skin cancers – and are thus at an increased risk for disease recurrence and new skin cancers. Research has shown that a majority of these individuals do not sufficiently protect themselves from the sun or follow recommendations to conduct thorough skin self-exams that can facilitate early disease detection. Results of several studies have shown promise with regard to improving patients’ engagement in skin self-examinations (Janda, 2014; Robinson 2007, 2014, 2016; Loescher et al., 2010), but there is a lack of intervention studies targeting sun protection behaviors in this at-risk population. Aiming to promote both sun protective behaviors and skin self-exams among melanoma patients, Elliot J. Coups, PhD, a behavioral scientist in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute, and colleagues developed an Internet intervention called mySmartSkin.

A sample of 384 individuals (40.9 percent response rate; median age 61.5 years) who were diagnosed and treated for stage 0 to 3 melanoma from three to 24 months previously were recruited to the study. Participants were randomized to receive their usual clinical care or to have access to the mySmartSkin intervention that promoted sun protective behaviors as well as skin self-examinations including use of an online body mole map. Self-reporting of sun protective measures (sunscreen, shade, protective clothing) and skin self-exams were assessed prior to the start of the intervention and eight weeks after.

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