Veterans Speak Up: Current Warnings on Skin Cancer Miss the Target, Suggestions for Improvement
Background: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world and its incidence is increasing. Veterans may have increased exposure to risk factors, but data are lacking in terms of their perceptions of skin cancer and the types of prevention strategies that might resonate with this population. Objective: This study examines veterans’ awareness of the risk factors for skin cancer and importance of sun protection and seeks to identify effective communication and educational strategies for this at-risk population. Methods: A telephone survey was conducted of 100 veterans, who have been diagnosed with skin cancer at the Audie Murphy Veteran’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Results: The majority of respondents’ said that their skin cancer resulted from sun exposure and that the best way to prevent skin cancer was to use sunscreen. However, when asked if they believed they were at risk for being diagnosed with skin cancer, most veterans responded that they believed they were at little risk. In response to why veterans did not heed warnings about skin cancer, many replied that they believed skin cancer would not happen to them. A statistically significant increase in usage of sunscreen and sun protectant garments occurred after being diagnosed with skin cancer and education by their physicians. Doctors talking to patients was rated the most effective communication method to inform them about the risks of skin cancer, followed by education during basic training. Limitations: Recall bias is the major limitation with a retrospective survey design. Discussion: Our results reveal poor patient awareness of the risks of skin cancer and the benefits of sun protection before their diagnosis. The veterans agreed that the physician–patient interaction is the best and most effective means of communication, which is evident by the significant increase in sun protection and sunscreen usage after their diagnosis. Our survey revealed that other effective communication strategies included education in basic training, the use of a veteran spokes model with skin cancer, and the use of images to emphasize the severity of the disease.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
The Association of Military Surgeons, United States
Fisher, V., Lee, D., McGrath, J., & Krejci-Manwaring, J. (2015). Veterans speak up: Current warnings on skin cancer miss the target, suggestions for improvement. Military Medicine, 180(8), 892-897. http://dx.doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00318