Luciana, a nineteen-year-old college student, lives in a coastal town in southern Italy and loves going to the beach. During her summer vacation and many of the late spring weekends, she spends four to six hours each day basking in the sun while talking with her friends or playing beach volleyball or swimming. She uses sunscreen lotion with a low sunscreen protection factor (SPF) and only at the beginning of the season to avoid sunburn. Once she is tanned, she may not use it at all. Most of her friends rarely use any sunscreen protection and, if they do, use the same kind with a low SPF. During the winter, Luciana keeps her tan by using artificial ultraviolet sunlamps.
In the summer, getting a nice tintarella, the Italian word for suntan, is one of Italians’ favorite pastimes and is considered very attractive. People compliment each other on their tintarella. While Luciana and some of her friends may be somewhat aware that prolonged and continuous sun exposure is a risk factor for skin cancer, the aesthetic appeal and social approval of a tanned skin allay her doubts about sun exposure. She also feels she is too young to worry about skin cancer, does not know enough about it, and therefore does not feel the need to use much stronger sunscreen protection.
A review of the literature on the subject (for example, Monfrecola, Fabbrocini, Posteraro, and Pini, 2000) shows that Luciana’s fictional profile is somewhat representative of frequent beliefs and behavior among a percentage of Italian young people who live on the Mediterranean coast.