A four-group experiment to improve Western high school students' sun protection behaviors

Yelena P. Wu, Bridget G. Parsons, Elizabeth Nagelhout, Benjamin Haaland, Jakob Jensen, Kelsey Zaugg, Heloisa Caputo, Riley Lensink, Garrett Harding, Jeffrey Yancey, Stephanie Z. Klein, Sancy A. Leachman, Kenneth P. Tercyak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Multicomponent skin cancer preventive interventions for adolescents that aim to decrease ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure and sunburns are particularly needed given their intentional tanning and infrequent use of sun protection. The purpose of this study was to conduct an early-phase study within the Multiphase Optimization Strategy framework that experimentally tested four unique intervention components targeting high school students' skin cancer prevention behaviors. Schools (11 total, N = 1,573 students) were assigned to receive one of four interventions: skin cancer education (control), education plus a sunscreen activity (to illustrate sunscreen's UVR-blocking properties), or behavior change worksheet (sun protection goal setting and planning) or receipt of a personalized UV damage photograph (photograph of facial damage). Sun protection, sunburn, and tanning outcomes were assessed before intervention and at 1-month follow-up. Within-and between-intervention changes in outcomes were examined using generalized estimating equation modeling. All interventions were associated with significant improvements in sun protection. The photograph was superior in controlling intentional tanning and sunburn when compared to the behavior change worksheet (ps < .05). In contrast, the worksheet was associated with greater increases in sun protection use when compared with the photograph (ps < .05). In this experiment testing four skin cancer preventive intervention components that varied in approach, content, and interactivity, the behavior change worksheet was superior in improving sun protection use whereas the UV photograph was superior in controlling intentional tanning and sunburn. Future randomized trials to test combinations of these intervention components are needed, and could identify mechanisms underlying improved effects and demographic or behavioral moderators of intervention effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-479
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 16 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Prevention
  • School-based
  • Skin cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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