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Jul 03, 2014 06:41 AM EDT

Fear of Developing Skin Cancer Induces People to Use Sunscreen Lotions More Often, Study

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Fear of developing skin cancer drives people to use sunscreen lotions frequently, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo. Researchers said that data on likelihood of developing the disease had little influence on sunscreen-use.

"Most health behavior studies don't account for the more visceral, emotional reactions that lead people to do risky behaviors, like eat junk food or ignore the protective benefits of sunscreen," said Marc Kiviniemi, lead researcher and assistant professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, in a statement.

"This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information. By not addressing emotions, we're potentially missing a rich influence on behavior when interventions don't address feelings."

For the study, researchers examined data from a nationwide survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute. Nearly 1,500 participants with no history of skin cancer were questioned about their sunscreen-use.

The researchers found that 32 percent reported to have ''never'' used sunscreen lotions and 14 percent reported to be using it "always". Educational awareness programs on skin cancer also linked to increased sunscreen-use.

They also found that increased degrees of worry were associated with increased sunscreen-use than statistical findings. And, men and non-White participants were less likely to use sunscreens.

"Our research looked at the interplay of emotions and facts in decision making- that is, how do cognitive and affective risks jointly work to influence behavior?" said Kiviniemi. "The nature of their interrelation as an influence on behavior has not been examined until this study."

The finding is published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine.

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