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Girlguides' awareness of and attitudes towards sun risks and sun-protective behaviours

02 June 2021
Volume 2 · Issue 3


This study was designed to explore girlguiding members' awareness of and attitudes towards sun risks and sun-protection behaviours. Girlguides represent a particularly important group for exploring awareness and attitudes, not only because of their adolescent age range but also because of the time they spend participating in a variety of outdoor activities. Two focus groups were facilitated, with a total of 10 participants between the ages of 12 and 18 years. Four themes were identified following thematic analysis of the data, which capture the awareness and attitudes of the participants: 1) Uncertainty over the specifics; 2) The importance of the influence of others; 3) Tanned appearance is positive; 4) The importance of increased education. The implications of the research include a need for further education in schools and at home, as well as in groups such as girlguiding, so that young people, especially adolescent girls, understand the importance of protecting themselves from ultraviolet radiation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2021), the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades. Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132 000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year, and one in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer (WHO, 2021). Cancer Research UK (2021) explain that the majority of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet radiation (UVR) through exposure to the sun and sunburn, meaning that skin cancers are largely preventable through behaviours such as using sunscreen, avoiding the midday sun and seeking shade, as well as sun-protective clothing.

Fernández-Morano et al (2017) suggest that adolescents should be considered a priority group for targeted interventions to improve sun protection behaviour, with UVR exposure during childhood and adolescence being of particular importance for skin cancer risk across the life span (Pettigrew et al, 2020). In addition, Berneburg and Surber (2009) suggest that adolescents are an important group to explore in terms of sun-protective behaviours; while parents are likely to protect their children from sun exposure when they are very young, when they move into adolescence they are less likely to be observed by their parents, and therefore need to take more responsibility for their own sun-protective behaviours. Therefore, it is important to study awareness of and attitudes towards the risks of the sun and sun-protective behaviours in adolescents. One useful approach for investigation is through qualitative research methods, for example focus groups, where adolescents can discuss their attitudes and opinions regarding these issues. Focus groups are advocated as being ideal for exploring participants' understanding and attitudes towards health-related topics (Wilkinson, 1998).

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