Effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder and Pathological Tanning Motives on Efficacy of an Appearance-Focused Intervention to Prevent Skin Cancer

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Objective: To evaluate the robustness of an appearance-focused intervention to prevent skin cancer in individuals reporting seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms and pathological tanning motives. Design: Randomized, controlled clinical trial. Setting: College campus. Participants: Four hundred thirty adult female indoor tanners (200 in the intervention group and 230 control participants). Intervention: A booklet discussing the history of tanning, current tanning norms, UV radiation's effects on skin, recommendations for indoor tanning use focusing on abstinence and harm reduction recommendations, and information on healthier, appearance-enhancing alternatives to tanning. Main Outcome Measures: Self-reported attitudes, intentions, and tanning behaviors; pathological tanning motives assessed by a questionnaire developed for this study; and SAD symptoms assessed by the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. Results: Two of the 4 pathological tanning scales, opiatelike reactions to tanning and dissatisfaction with natural skin tone, were significant moderators demonstrating stronger treatment effects for individuals scoring higher on these scales. Treatment effects were equivalently positive (ie, no significant moderator effects) for all levels of SAD symptoms and all levels of the other 2 pathological tanning motive scales (ie, perceiving tanning as a problem and tolerance to the effects of tanning). Conclusions: The appearance-focused skin cancer prevention intervention is robust enough to reduce indoor tanning among tanners who exhibit SAD symptoms or pathological tanning motives. Tailored interventions may address individuals' motivations for tanning and their relation to maladaptive behavior, such as dissatisfaction with appearance or the need for relaxation because of anxiety.