Purpose: With the increase in melanoma incidence, the sun exposure and protective behaviors of adolescents are of great concern. Limited data are available on the prevalence and predictors of risk behavior in adolescents in the southeastern United States. This study examined the levels of sun exposure and variables predictive of sun exposure among adolescents in two Alabama middle schools.
Methods: A total of 509 sixth-graders completed a self-administered survey assessing: (a) their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about malignant melanoma; and (b) their sun exposure and sunburns for a specific weekend and for the summer.
Results: Levels of sun exposure and frequency of sunburn were high. Regression models determined the predictors of weekend and summer sun exposure, and weekend sunburn. Significant predictors varied by outcome and included gender, perceived importance of a suntan, parent and peer modeling, and sunscreen use.
Conclusion: Reducing the risk of melanoma will require a three-pronged intervention strategy with efforts directed at adolescents, their parents, and the broader community.