Conceptualizing and Measuring Risk Perceptions of Skin Cancer
Background: Perceived risk is commonly conceived as a joint function of the perceived evaluations about the probability estimate of a negative outcome, and the perceived seriousness of the consequences of that negative outcome. Theories typically posit that once people perceive their vulnerability to health risks or outcomes, they form intentions to take preventive actions to reduce their risk. This theoretical proposition is not supported in skin cancer preventative behavior studies, which could be due to improper measurement of perceived risk. Purpose and Methods: The purpose of this manuscript was to assess how risk perception of skin cancer has been conceptualized and measured in the literature to date. Literature retrieval was facilitated through EBSCO, PubMed, PsycInfo, MEDLINE, and ERIC databases. Twenty potentially relevant articles were identified for this review. Results: In the literature, skin cancer risk has been operationalized in two ways: absolute risk and comparative risk. However, these measures have some serious limitations. For example, there is great uncertainty regarding the quality of risk perception measurements (i.e., whether the items used to measure perceived risk are reliable and valid). Future studies are warranted to better understand the significance of using conditional risk measures.