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Open Access Study protocol

A randomised controlled trial of a theory-based intervention to improve sun protective behaviour in adolescents ('you can still be HOT in the shade'): study protocol

Anna L Hawkes12*, Kyra Hamilton34, Katherine M White34 and Ross McD Young4

Author Affiliations

1 Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, Cancer Council Queensland, 553 Gregory Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane 4006, Australia

2 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove 4059, Australia

3 School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove 4059, Australia

4 Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, 60 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove 4059, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-1

Published: 3 January 2012



Most skin cancers are preventable by encouraging consistent use of sun protective behaviour. In Australia, adolescents have high levels of knowledge and awareness of the risks of skin cancer but exhibit significantly lower sun protection behaviours than adults. There is limited research aimed at understanding why people do or do not engage in sun protective behaviour, and an associated absence of theory-based interventions to improve sun safe behaviour. This paper presents the study protocol for a school-based intervention which aims to improve the sun safe behaviour of adolescents.


Approximately 400 adolescents (aged 12-17 years) will be recruited through Queensland, Australia public and private schools and randomized to the intervention (n = 200) or 'wait-list' control group (n = 200). The intervention focuses on encouraging supportive sun protective attitudes and beliefs, fostering perceptions of normative support for sun protection behaviour, and increasing perceptions of control/self-efficacy over using sun protection. It will be delivered during three × one hour sessions over a three week period from a trained facilitator during class time. Data will be collected one week pre-intervention (Time 1), and at one week (Time 2) and four weeks (Time 3) post-intervention. Primary outcomes are intentions to sun protect and sun protection behaviour. Secondary outcomes include attitudes toward performing sun protective behaviours (i.e., attitudes), perceptions of normative support to sun protect (i.e., subjective norms, group norms, and image norms), and perceived control over performing sun protective behaviours (i.e., perceived behavioural control).


The study will provide valuable information about the effectiveness of the intervention in improving the sun protective behaviour of adolescents.

Oncology; Skin cancer; Adolescent; School; Intervention; Theory of planned; Behaviour; Education; Sun protective behaviour