Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., October 9, 2017 – A five-year, $2.4 million grant (R01CA218068) from the National Cancer Institute awarded to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey behavioral scientist Jerod L. Stapleton, PhD, will support the development and testing of a novel behavioral intervention delivered through the social media site Facebook to reduce high-risk indoor tanning behaviors among young women.

“There are well-publicized dangers of excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation for the purposes of tanning, whether sunbathing outdoors or the use of indoor tanning beds. Tanning has been associated with increased risk of all types of skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma,” notes Dr. Stapleton, who is part of Rutgers Cancer Institute’s Population Science Program and an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The 2014 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer report identified a critical research gap related to an absence of interventions that target high-risk indoor tanners and address underlying motives for tanning. It is for that reason we need to further explore this topic,” he adds.

Stapleton and colleagues will refine existing intervention content from preliminary intervention studies conducted by their group. They will then conduct a trial of the new content in a sample of 400 young women who engage in indoor tanning. Through a private group function on Facebook, participants will have an opportunity to interact with one another on content tailored toward addressing the underlying motives of indoor tanning rather than on the risks of the practice.  For instance, content will focus on reducing the perceived pressure to be tan, reducing the value placed on tanning and promoting positive body image. 

Investigators are looking to show that participants in the intervention will report less indoor tanning at a six-month follow-up period than those who take part in a control group.  They also will examine psychosocial mediators of the intervention effects.

An estimated one in ten of all new U.S. cases of melanoma is directly attributable to indoor tanning, according to 2014 research (Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, et al., JAMA Dermatol.) that analyzed existing studies of tanning risks. Most concerning, notes Stapleton, are estimates from a 2013 study (Guy GP, et al., JAMA Internal Med.) that found nearly one in five young adult white females engage in high-risk indoor tanning, which is defined as using indoor tanning beds at least ten times a year. “If effective, the low-cost intervention we are exploring could be widely disseminated and would have the potential to help reverse concerning melanoma trends observed among young women,” he notes.

The award period runs through May 2022.

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