Skin cancer: knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes of college students

South Med J. 2010 Oct;103(10):999-1003. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181eda64f.


Objectives: Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of college students regarding melanoma and skin protection were examined.

Methods: We surveyed 492 students at a mid-sized southern university. The Melanoma Risk Behavior Survey was administered in lecture classes.

Results: Mean knowledge score was 10.6 ± 3.8 (24 questions). A majority of participants knew that sun exposure increases the risk for skin cancer; however, only 29% correctly identified behaviors that reduce this risk. Mean attitude score was 5.26 ± 2.73 (11 questions). Sixty-nine percent agreed that all people should take precautions against skin cancer; however, only 51% believed they themselves should practice sun safe behaviors. Mean behavior score was 1.29 ± 1.22 (9 possible). Only 3.1% reported avoiding the sun during peak hours, and only 5.1% regularly use sunscreen when exposed to the sun.

Conclusion: Campus programs for increasing awareness of skin cancer risk are warranted. Changing attitudes and behaviors regarding exposure and protective measures is increasingly important.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Melanoma / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Sunscreening Agents