Background: The incidence of skin cancer in the United States is rapidly increasing, and current estimates suggest that about one in five persons will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. However, comparatively little is still known about the prevention and early detection behaviors of healthy individuals. This study presents information on prevention and early detection practices for a sample of non-Hispanic rural white women.
Method: Interviews were conducted with 1,295 women age 20 or older who were patients in six public health departments and one primary-care clinic serving a low-income population, all located in rural western North Carolina.
Results: Both prevention and early detection behaviors were found to be infrequent in this population. Low knowledge of skin cancer, younger and older ages, and low education characterized women least likely to practice prevention. Low knowledge, younger age, and low education characterized women least likely to practice early detection. Perceived barriers to cancer screening including cost, lack of symptoms, and denial also were predictive of a low likelihood of both prevention and early detection behavior. Fatalism and fear of the stigma associated with cancer also were predictive of lower participation in selected early detection behaviors. A summary general barriers score was significantly associated with all prevention and early detection behaviors examined in the study.
Conclusions: The results indicate a need for skin cancer education among this population.