Understanding and Influencing Adolescent Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviors Regarding Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure: How Nurse Practitioners Can Make a Difference
Beach, Nina Vecchio
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Background: All populations are being effected by an increased rate of skin cancer occurrence. Ultraviolet protection behaviors are controversial and there is extensive information available to determine best practice. The tanning industry and societal pressures continue to make it an uphill battle to curb abuse of tanning beds and the sun. Understanding that teaching adolescents is different than other populations is important when trying to influence this population. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and the incidence continues to rise. Aims: By reviewing current literature and evidence, this paper is to help raise awareness among nurse practitioners (NPs) of the increasing occurrence of skin cancers, many of which are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. Since the majority of human UV exposure occurs before age 20, it is imperative that nurse practitioners and other providers address the risks of UV exposure early. This article will increase the NPs awareness of the risks of ultraviolet skin exposure and provide information and techniques to educate adolescents and their families to choose healthy behaviors. Findings: There are guidelines, programs, brochures, and other tools to educate the public on the risks of ultraviolet exposure. However studies have shown that the level of knowledge is either not adequate or despite an accurate level of knowledge people continue to take unnecessary sun exposure risks which put their lives in danger, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Studies show that behaviors can change with adequate, consistent education but currently there is no standardized plan on how to do this for adolescents in the United States. Conclusion: Nurse practitioners and other providers have the opportunity to provide the needed education to prevent and/or decrease harmful UV exposure. Many organizations have brochures and tools to use for educating adolescents and their families. Helping adolescents and their families sort out the controversies to determine the best methods for healthy sun and UV behaviors is a place nurse practitioners can start to attempt to deter the pending epidemic of sun exposure induced cancers.