Sun protection advice mediated by the general practitioner: an effective way to achieve long-term change of behaviour and attitudes related to sun exposure?

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2011 Sep;29(3):135-43. doi: 10.3109/02813432.2011.580088. Epub 2011 Jun 20.


Objective: To investigate, in primary health care, differentiated levels of prevention directed at skin cancer, and how the propensity of the patients to change sun habits/sun protection behaviour and attitudes towards sunbathing were affected, three years after intervention. Additionally, the impact of the performance of a phototest as a complementary tool for prevention was evaluated.

Design: Randomized controlled study. Setting and subjects. During three weeks in February, all patients ≥ 18 years of age registering at a primary health care centre in southern Sweden were asked to fill in a questionnaire mapping sun exposure habits, attitudes towards sunbathing, and readiness to increase sun protection according to the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change (TTM) (n = 316). They were randomized into three intervention groups, for which sun protection advice was given, in Group 1 by means of a letter, and in Groups 2 and 3 orally during a personal GP consultation. Group 3 also underwent a phototest to demonstrate individual skin UV sensitivity.

Main outcome measures: Change of sun habits/sun protection behaviour and attitudes, measured by five-point Likert scale scores and readiness to increase sun protection according to the TTM, three years after intervention, by a repeated questionnaire.

Results: In the letter group, almost no improvement in sun protection occurred. In the two doctor's consultation groups, significantly increased sun protection was demonstrated for several items, but the difference compared with the letter group was significant only for sunscreen use. The performance of a phototest did not appear to reinforce the impact of intervention.

Conclusion: Sun protection advice, mediated personally by the GP during a doctor's consultation, can lead to improvement in sun protection over a prolonged time period.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • General Practice
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunbathing* / education
  • Sunbathing* / psychology
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects