Journal of Cancer Education

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 438–446

A Qualitative Exploration of Latinos’ Perceptions About Skin Cancer: the Role of Gender and Linguistic Acculturation

  • Vivian M. Rodríguez
  • Elyse Shuk
  • Guedy Arniella
  • C. Javier González
  • Francesca Gany
  • Jada G. Hamilton
  • Geoffrey S. Gold
  • Jennifer L. Hay


Latinos have the highest rate of skin cancers among U.S. minorities. Despite a rising incidence of melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—and greater disease burden, Latinos tend to have poor awareness of skin cancer risk factors which may inhibit preventive action. We expanded on prior work by qualitatively examining potential moderators (i.e., gender, acculturation) of skin cancer perceptions among Latinos from El Barrio in Harlem, New York City. Four focus groups stratified by language (English/Spanish) and gender were conducted. Discussions were recorded, transcribed, and coded using thematic analysis. Thirty-eight self-identified Latinos (32 % male) participated. Across groups, median age was 35 years; 50 % completed <high school degree, 82 % had annual incomes ≤$29,999, and 55 % were born in Mexico. Mean acculturation level was 8.5 (SD = 3.9, range = 4–20). Major themes included (1) knowledge of common skin cancer risk factors, (2) acknowledgment of personal risk although lighter-skin individuals are at greater risk, and (3) awareness of effective risk reduction methods, despite the presence of fatalistic beliefs. Compared to males, females discussed tanning norms and appearance-based factors, identified children as vulnerable, highlighted the benefits of sun exposure, and wanted more information. Few linguistic acculturation patterns were noted; English speakers questioned the carcinogenic effect of sunscreen and reported more skin cancer-related physician discussions than Spanish speakers. Despite generally low acculturation, Latinos correctly identified skin cancer risk factors and agreed that it is preventable with engagement in risk-reducing behaviors. Future educational interventions must capitalize upon and reinforce such beliefs and address fatalistic perceptions which may hinder prevention efforts.


Skin cancer Latinos Perceptions Gender differences Acculturation Qualitative 


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vivian M. Rodríguez
    • 1
  • Elyse Shuk
    • 1
  • Guedy Arniella
    • 2
  • C. Javier González
    • 1
  • Francesca Gany
    • 1
  • Jada G. Hamilton
    • 1
  • Geoffrey S. Gold
    • 3
  • Jennifer L. Hay
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Harlem Residency in Family MedicineThe Institute for Family HealthNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

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