Perception of a skin cancer risk among persons exposed to risk factors

There are several principal factors related to an increased risk of developing skin cancer. First, there are hereditary factors and age, and second, there is lifestyle. Exposure to sunlight, in particular if it results in sunburns, is a strong risk factor. According to the latest findings, there is no dispute that solarium tanning also increases the risk of skin cancer. Another risk factor is smoking, contributing indirectly to the development of the disease by weakening the immune system. Are the people who are often exposed to risk factors (sunbathing resulting in sunburns, using solaria and smoking) more concerned about developing the disease?

The Institute for Evaluation and Social Analyses (INESAN) conducted a research into the rating of educational campaigns aimed at reducing the risk of developing skin cancer in July 2015. The research involved a total of 1,110 valid interviews with respondents chosen by means of quota selection to represent the general adult population aged 18 to 64 in terms of gender, age, education, region and size of the municipality of residence.

The results show that the people who have been using solaria for tanning or who got sunburnt when sunbathing more often (over the course of the last five years) perceive a greater risk of developing the disease than other respondents. 47 % of the respondents who use solaria frequently agree that it is likely that they may develop skin cancer one day (see the graph). For the respondents who use solaria occasionally or rarely, there are 25 % and 22 % of respondents, respectively, who agree with the above, and 9 % of those who never use solaria are concerned about the probability of developing the disease. The people who often use solaria also often agree that they are exposed to a significant risk of developing skin cancer: agreement with the notion was voiced by 33 % of the respondents who use solaria often, 19 % and 24 %, respectively, of the respondents who do so occasionally or rarely, and 14 % of those who never use solaria.

The results are not so distinctive when it comes to sunbathing followed by sunburns. Similarly, the people who sunbathe often and end up sunburnt are those who perceive the likelihood of the future disease more often (21%) than those who experience this rarely (15 %) or never (10 %), but there is an obvious increase of undecided answers and differentiation in negative answers: 32 % of frequent sunbathers who get sunburnt do not consider developing the disease likely; respondents with occasional experience are less concerned (41 %); those with rare experience are even less concerned (44 %), and the respondents without this experience are the least worried (68 %). A better insight is provided when comparing respondents’ rate of agreement with the statement “My risk of developing skin cancer is considerable”. Agreement with the statement was voiced by 33 % of the respondents who often sunbathed until suffering sunburns, 26% of the respondents who got sunburnt occasionally, 16 % of those who rarely sunbathed until getting sunburnt, and 11 % of those who never experienced this.

Conversely, smokers are not markedly more worried about developing the disease than the rest of the population. While they slightly more often agree that they may develop skin cancer one day, no difference was found between smokers and non-smokers as regards the agreement with the statement regarding a high degree of risk of developing skin cancer.

The research shows that the Czech population is aware of an increased skin cancer risk due to using solaria for tanning. This may be due to the fact that, in recent years, the media have published the results of research demonstrating that solarium tanning is harmful, resulting in better awareness among the population. Still, one in every two solarium users considers developing skin cancer one day unlikely, and even fewer respondents consider the risk of developing skin cancer high. The idea of sunbathing resulting in sunburns is much less widespread among the population – in this case, people are less concerned about the consequences. The results also show that smokers tend not to associate smoking with the probability of developing skin cancer.