BGU: Use Israelis’ vanity to fight dangerous sun exposure

Skin cancer among Jewish population of Israel is among highest in the world; sunbathers more likely to respond to warnings that sun causes wrinkles.

sunbathing woman_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
sunbathing woman_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Sun worshippers who care more about getting a tan to look attractive than the danger of skin cancer are more likely to beware if reminded that long-term tanning produces ugly wrinkles.
A new study at the Health Sciences Faculty and the Management Faculty of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has shown that stressing aging from sun exposure is more effective than talking about melanoma.
The diagnosis of skin cancer among the Jewish population of Israel is among the highest in the Western world, causing the Health Ministry and the Israel Cancer Association to invest much effort to preach against dangerous sun exposure.
But these efforts, say Ma’ayan Korzitz, Prof. Yaniv Poriya and Prof. Daniel Vardi of BGU, are not based on empirical studies on exposures to the sun.
Thus the team decided to create a databank of information that would contribute to advancing healthful behavior and reduce skin cancer rates in the country. To understand when and how the individual regards sun exposure as dangerous, they conducted 31 indepth, quality interviews in a representative sample of adults.
The second stage of their research was based on 353 thorough questionnaires.
They concluded that whether to expose one’s skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays depended on the judgment and personal feeling of the individual. In addition, women are especially worried about the aesthetics of their skin and therefore can be persuaded to minimize tanning to escape needless wrinkles.
Those interviewed developed their own self-estimates of how much they have been exposed to the sun. The first measure was when they feel the sun’s warmth and define it as “burning” or “too hot.” Thus, for example, those in air conditioned or shaded areas don’t feel the heat and think they are protected. In the second, they see redness or sunburn on their skin. In the third, they are exposed at the beach or swimming pool between noon and 4 p.m.
An analysis of the data showed that when exposed to the sun during daily routines, those interviewed almost didn’t bother to protect themselves from the sun. When they went to the beach or pool, they regarded sun exposure as being dangerous and automatically sought to protect themselves.
When they were on vacation abroad at the beach or pool, they spent an extended amount of time in the sun so they could return to Israel with a tan to show they had a “good time.”
Many Israelis admitted they are not really afraid of skin cancer and that it affects mostly older people. The researchers said that the public shows “relative responsibility” at the beach or pool but “irresponsibility” during their daily routines. They also advised that anti-cancer education efforts stress not only cancer risks but also skin damage that causes aging.