Skin and Colon Cancer Media Campaigns in Utah

In 2003, the Utah Cancer Action Network (UCAN), which aims to reduce cancer incidence and mortality in the state, selected skin and colon cancers as their top priorities. With these priorities identified, UCAN set two goals: (1) to reduce the incidence of skin cancer in Utah by decreasing the proportion of adults and young people who acquired sunburn to less than 30% by 2005, and (2) to promote and increase colon cancer screening rates to 50% among people aged 50 or older who had a fecal occult blood test in the past two years and/or ever had a sigmoidoscopy. Prior to designing campaigns to help meet each of these goals, UCAN made arrangements to administer two telephone surveys (one for skin cancer and one for colon cancer) to assess public knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding each cancer. Results from these surveys were used to craft messaging for each awareness campaign. The skin cancer campaign’s main message was that parents could protect their children by realizing the dangers of sun exposure. Campaign materials included radio and television ads, print ads, banners, billboards, and collateral materials such as posters, rack cards, water bottles, lip balm, and sunscreen packets. Colon cancer materials were designed to target individuals aged 45 and older and encouraged them to call their doctor to find out which colon cancer screening option was right for them. Local media celebrities identified as key influencers among the target audience were recruited as spokespeople for the campaign and physicians made regular public appearances and provided interviews supporting UCAN’s message. Additionally, Utah’s local ABC Television affiliate broadcast a live colonoscopy to eradicate myths about the procedure and the two largest newspapers in the state printed a twelve-page UCAN tabloid insert that contained articles written by doctors and health experts from around the state. Four to six weeks after each campaign launched, two more surveys were administered to re-evaluate public knowledge, attitudes, and health behaviors regarding each cancer. Pre-campaign, 18% of survey respondents reported seeing or hearing skin cancer prevention or sun protection announcements. This percentage increased to 76% in the follow-up survey. Similarly, the percentage of survey respondents that had heard or seen advertising about colon cancer increased from 36% pre-campaign to 79% in the follow-up survey.

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