Skin cancer-related prevention and screening behaviors: a review of the literature

J Behav Med. 2009 Oct;32(5):406-28. doi: 10.1007/s10865-009-9219-2. Epub 2009 Jun 12.


Primary prevention and early detection continue to be of paramount importance in addressing the public health threat of skin cancer. The aim of this systematic review was to provide a comprehensive overview of the prevalence and correlates of skin cancer-related health behaviors in the general population. To achieve this aim, 91 studies published in international peer-reviewed journals over the past three decades were reviewed and synthesized. Reported estimates of sunscreen use varied considerably across studies, ranging from 7 to 90%. According to self-report, between 23 and 61% of individuals engage in skin self-examination at least once per year, and the documented prevalence of annual clinical skin examination ranges from 8 to 21%. Adherence to sun protection and screening recommendations is associated with a range of factors, including: female gender, sun-sensitive phenotype, greater perceived risk of skin cancer, greater perceived benefits of sun protection or screening, and doctor recommendation for screening. The literature suggests that a large proportion of the general population engage in suboptimal levels of sun protection, although there is substantial variability in findings. The strongest recommendation to emerge from this review is a call for the development and widespread use of standardized measurement scales in future research, in addition to more studies with a population-based, multivariate design. It is also recommended that specific targeted interventions are developed to increase the prevalence of preventative and early intervention behaviors for the control of skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Protective Clothing / statistics & numerical data
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage


  • Sunscreening Agents