Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Numerous humanitarian organisations, medical coalitions and political campaigns have attempted to reduce these concerning numbers through the education of Australian citizens in regards to the risks of sun exposure. While such initiatives have succeeded in varying degrees, emerging research is suggesting alternative ways through which the public could be encouraged to engage in appropriate methods of skin care.

A recent study conducted through America’s National Cancer Institute suggests that the primary reason people wear sunblock is a fear of attaining skin cancer, themselves. While this may seem obvious, the important information uncovered here is that it is fear of cancer and how it may affect the personal context of individuals that drives preventative action. Prior to this study, it was generally assumed that individuals’ statistical understanding of the cancer of others was the primary driver behind sun protection.

What does this mean for the medical industry? This revelation is perhaps most important for doctors. In the past health care professionals have believed that educating individuals is the best means of ensuring their appropriate use of sun protection. In light of this study, doctors are now considering the additional improvements that could be made to patients’ skin care behaviours by other means, such as encouraging patients to understand what cancer might mean in their own personal contexts. Education thus not only includes informing individuals how risk influences the contexts of others and broader society, but also incorporates a need for the fostering of understandings of the meaning of cancer within individual patient context.