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College of Public Health

ETSU skin cancer prevention researcher earns publication in three academic journals all in the same week

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    JOHNSON CITY An East Tennessee State University doctoral candidate who has already received national attention for her research on indoor tanning achieved an uncommon distinction in July: publication of three different research articles in three different academic journals, all in the same week.

    Katie Baker, a Greeneville native, is a co-author of articles that appeared in journals published during the third week of July. She is pursuing her doctorate in the ETSU Department of Community and Behavioral Health and conducts her research in the ETSU Skin Cancer Prevention Lab, which realized a fourth publication in July by Dr. Joel Hillhouse. A professor of community and behavioral health, Hillhouse directs the Skin Cancer Prevention Lab and is Baker's faculty advisor.

    Baker is a co-author on papers published almost simultaneously in Archives of Dermatology, Dermatologic Clinics and Translational Behavioral Medicine, an online journal.

    In Dermatologic Clinics, Baker and her colleagues including Hillhouse and another esteemed skin cancer prevention researcher, Dr. June Robinson presented the most up-to-date information for promoting behavior change among indoor tanners.

    For Archives of Dermatology, Hillhouse and Baker reported their research, development and testing of a screening tool for tanning abuse and dependence among college-age adults.

    And, in Translational Behavioral Medicine, Baker is co-author of a paper that seeks to establish the prevalence of sunburn among indoor tanners. The lead author is Dr. Jerod Stapleton, who also studied under Hillhouse at ETSU and is now a faculty member at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

    "We've known for some time that the publications were coming, but what are the odds that all would happen in the same week?" Baker said. "It's exciting news for our lab and all of the people who put in the hundreds of hours of work. We're hopeful that our research can help change attitudes and public policy in regards to indoor tanning. Our screening tool found that 10.8 percent of college-adults in our study met the criteria for tanning abuse and an additional 5.4 percent met the criteria for tanning dependence. Those are alarming statistics."

    The ETSU Skin Cancer Prevention Lab has a rising national profile in the field. The New York Times is among the media outlets that profiled Baker's research on how a mother's attitude toward tanning can influence her daughter's likelihood to indoor tan. The National Cancer Institute awarded Baker a training grant last year to aid that scholarship.

    When CBS Sunday Morning reported on the dangers and proliferation of tanning last year, the TV news magazine interviewed Hillhouse for expert opinion. His work aimed at curbing indoor tanning by teenagers is funded by a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    Hillhouse was lead author on the fourth July publication for his lab. In Prevention Science, his manuscript "Accuracy of Self-Reported Sun Exposure and Sun Protection Behavior" serves to establish "gold standard" measures for a person's estimates of their own tanning behavior, including days and hours spent outside sunbathing when not protected by sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, hats or shade. Hillhouse is hopeful their research and resulting publications can make a difference in public health. The work of his lab is driven by data that shows melanoma risk skyrockets for those who use indoor tanning before age 30.

    "These studies reflect separate but equally important issues related to skin cancer prevention," Hillhouse said. "Among the findings published this month, the most interesting is that we were able to establish realistic prevalence rates for tanning abuse and dependence among a sample of young adults. Highlighting the magnitude of this public health problem may serve to inform indoor tanning policy decisions in the near future."

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