Life-style-associated exposure to sunlight is a contributory factor for acute and chronic skin damage including malign melanoma. The aim of the present study was to investigate the current gender-specific attitudes and motives regarding sun tanning and sunlight protective behaviour among Austrian residents.
In this cross-sectional study, a convenient sample of 563 Austrian inhabitants participated in a self-reported questionnaire-based outdoor survey. We subjected the data obtained to statistical analysis to get insight into socio-demographic and sun risk behaviour-related inter-group differences (smoking habits as well as gender).
The survey revealed significant gender differences in respect to sun protective behaviour and knowledge on adverse health effects of ultraviolet light exposure. Female participants achieved a higher knowledge score, showed higher risk awareness, and performed more sun protection (all p < 0.0001). Male participants were more likely to underestimate the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, consistently resulting in a higher frequency of reported sunburns in men (p = 0.005). Although smoking habits were gender-independent, smokers compared with non-smokers sun bathed more frequently with less sun protection (all p < 0.0001), and were less sportive (p = 0.035).
The study provides empirical data contributing to the development of novel approaches for target group and gender-specific Public (Skin) Health education programs and information materials. Revised strategies for improved skin health promotion and skin cancer prevention should focus on the benefits of sun light avoidance regarding long-term deterioration of physical appearance and attractiveness.