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Preventing Skin Cancer: Mass Media

Task Force Finding

The Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness of mass media interventions to prevent skin cancer by reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Although available evidence generally indicates that mass media interventions are associated with improvements in protective and preventive behaviors, the small number of studies, several with methodological limitations, make it difficult to draw clear conclusions.

Read the full Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement for details including implementation issues, possible added benefits, potential harms, and evidence gaps.

Intervention Definition

Mass media interventions to prevent skin cancer by reducing individuals' exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation use communication channels such as print media (e.g., newspapers, magazines), broadcast media (e.g., radio, television), billboards, or the Internet to disseminate information, behavioral guidance, or a combination of these to wide audiences. Messages may target specific audiences, although the interventions typically rely on broad distribution channels. Some interventions provide up-to-date information about the intensity of the sun's rays (UV index), with the goal of raising awareness of the dangers of UV exposure and prompting sun protection measures. Others use persuasive techniques intended to change knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and behaviors related to sun-protection and skin cancer.

Although this review assessed the effectiveness of mass media interventions themselves, eligible interventions could also use small media (e.g., brochures, flyers, newsletters) or promotional products to increase awareness of campaign messages.

About the Systematic Review

The Task Force finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 4 studies (search period January 1966 – May 2011). The systematic review was conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to preventing skin cancer. This finding updates and replaces the 2003 Task Force finding on Mass Media Campaigns.


Four studies were included in the evidence review, and results showed favorable effects for the following outcomes.

  • Sun protective behaviors (3 studies)
    • Interventions led to overall increases in sun protective behaviors (e.g., use of sunscreen, protective clothing, hats, and shade) among adults and children.
  • Risk behaviors (2 studies)
    • One study showed that increased exposure to televised messages about sun protection (1987-2002) was associated with a decrease in amount of exposed skin on the average person's body (2.0% decrease per 100 target audience rating points [TARP] increase in advertising intensity)
    • Another study showed an anti-sunbed campaign resulted in decreased use of tanning beds.
      • Overall incidence of tanning bed use (odds ratio [OR]=0.61; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.54, ‑0.69)
      • Proportion of children (<13 years) who had ever used tanning beds (‑5 percentage points, p< 0.001)
      • Proportion of teens (13-15 years) who used tanning beds (‑10 percentage points, p<0.001)

Study Characteristics

  • Studies were conducted in Australia (2 studies), the United States (1 study), and Denmark (1 study).
  • The studies included in this review evaluated mass media interventions that delivered persuasive massages over varying time periods to influence attitudes and behaviors.
  • Two of the included studies evaluated the effectiveness of mass media interventions when implemented alone, and two evaluated mass media interventions used in combination with small media (e.g., brochures).


Applicability of this intervention across different settings and populations was not assessed because the Task Force did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the Task Force did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Supporting Materials

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Publication Status

Full peer-reviewed articles of this systematic review will be posted on the Community Guide website when published. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified when we post these publications or other materials. See our library for previous Community Guide publications on this and other topics.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Preventing skin cancer: mass media. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: June 2011