Background: With the use of sun protective behaviours, skin cancer is largely preventable; however, a tanned appearance is still considered desirable by many young people. Skin tone dissatisfaction, a measure of the discrepancy between one’s current and ideal skin tone, has been shown to be associated with tanning behaviours in female University students. This is yet to be established in adolescents, although adolescence is an important time for establishing health behaviours.
Aims: The current study aimed to establish whether this relationship was present in male and female school students.
Methods: 10 South Australian schools were invited to participate and 4 agreed. Of 603 invited students, 313 year 8 secondary school students (response rate of 52%) completed a questionnaire assessing health behaviours including sun exposure and the Skin Tone Dissatisfaction Scale.
Results: Females who reported being burnt the previously summer had significantly greater skin tone dissatisfaction scores than those who had not been burnt, F (3,156) = 2.63, p = .05. This relationship was not evident in boys (p > .05). In addition, there was a significant correlation between girls’ desired skin tone and their perception of the skin tone of the girl they most admired at school (r = .48, p < .01) demonstrating the potential influence of peers. Data are currently being analysed in a population sample of 3059 adolescents which will also examine the relationship between skin tone dissatisfaction, sun exposure and sun protection in a larger sample of secondary school children and consider differences in gender, age, and cultural background.
Conclusions: Dissatisfaction with skin tone was associated with unhealthy sun exposure in adolescent girls. Therefore, appearance motivations are an important component of skin cancer prevention programs aimed at reducing sun exposure and increasing sun protection in adolescent females.