Survey Shows Gaps in Skin Cancer Knowledge, Health Practices in a Population of Men

A dermatologist examines a patient's skin, carefully looking at a mole for signs of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US. Inform your patients of sun protection measures they can take.
A cross-sectional survey revealed the extent of knowledge about skin cancer and skin health behaviors among residents of a Midwest homeless shelter for men.

A cross-sectional survey study of homeless men residing at a shelter in Texas revealed a need for increased skin cancer education and skin cancer screening in this vulnerable population. These study findings were published in the Journal of Cancer Education.

The burden of skin cancer is increasing in the United States along with a rising incidence of melanoma. Previous studies have shown that rates of skin cancer and skin cancer-related deaths are higher in groups with low socioeconomic status. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding skin cancer and its prevention in a group of homeless men.

In this study, a convenience sampling of 75 men residing at the Calvert Place Men’s Shelter in Dallas, Texas, completed surveys consisting of 21 questions reflecting demographics, knowledge, attitudes, and practices as related to skin cancer and its prevention at a single point in time. This homeless shelter provides beds for 335 men, as well as meals, clothing, shelter, and access to a healthcare clinic.

More than 50% of survey participants were aged 45 years or older, and self-identified as white (40%), black (40%), or other race/ethnicity (20%).

Survey responses indicated that more than half of participants did not realize that a skin tan was the result of skin damage. The vast majority of survey respondents (95%) knew that people with darker skin could get skin cancer, but only 25% were aware that darker colored clothing was more protective against UV radiation than lighter colored clothing, and only 16% realized that basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer.

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More than 50% of survey respondents reported that they were often in the sun, but only 21% reported using sun screen, with 64% selecting “staying in the shade” as a common form of sun protection. Only 59% of participants were familiar with the correct timing and frequency for sunscreen application.

Nearly three-fourths of study participants reported that they had never checked themselves for skin cancer, and only 13% reported undergoing a skin cancer screening examination by a healthcare professional.

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Joseph A, Kindratt T, Pagels P, Gimpel N. Knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding skin cancer and sun exposure among homeless men at a shelter in Dallas, TX [published online March 13, 2019]. J Cancer Educ. doi: 10.1007/s13187-019-01511-8

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor