New and creative approach to skin cancer prevention in teens and young adults

September 12, 2015

  • Skin cancer is an important public health problem despite interventions to decrease sun exposure and tan.
  • Behavioral economic principles have successfully founded public health initiatives for healthier habits.
  • This paper reviews and summarizes current knowledge about this topic and human decision-making.
  • It provides physicians with examples of how to promote healthy sun exposure behaviors among patients.

Skin cancer represents an important public health problem, and it is associated with ultraviolet radiation exposure, particularly at early ages. Unhealthy sun exposure and intentional tanning continue to be the trend among young people. Multiple interventions to raise awareness of the risks of sun exposure have been implemented, without necessarily translating into decreased unhealthy behaviors or skin cancer incidence rates. Behavioral economics adds a set of concepts and tools to potentially boost the efficacy of existing approaches to decrease unhealthy sun exposure.

This paper reviews public health interventions that have been based in behavioral economics concepts and their results, and provides examples of new and creative ways physicians and health professionals can actively apply insights from behavioral economics to counsel teenagers and young adults about skin cancer prevention.

García-Romero, MT, et al. Using behavioral economics to promote healthy behavior toward sun exposure in adolescents and young adults. Preventive Medicine. Volume 81, December 2015, Pages 184–188.

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