Grantee: Sharon L. Manne

Sharon L. Manne

Sharon L. Manne, Ph.D.

Clinical psychologist
  • Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Current Title
Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Section of Behavioral Sciences
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Describe your scientific identity.
I am a clinical psychologist who has expertise in psychosocial aspects of cancer.

What are your research interests?
Psychological interventions for cancer patients and their families; Behavioral interventions to improve adherence to cancer surveillance; Behavioral interventions to improve post-treatment care for cancer survivors.

What is the significance of your current research project?
The risk of developing melanoma is more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago, and melanoma is the most common malignancy for young adults aged 25 to 29, and the second most common malignancy among persons aged 15 to 29. The significance of the melanoma problem has now been emphasized in the US Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Our work focuses on improving sun protection and skin surveillance practices among close family members of young onset melanoma patients and the patients themselves. Despite their increased risk and the fact that this unique population is growing, close family members pay relatively little attention to sun protection and skin surveillance practices such as skin self-checks and physician skin exams. Although most young onset melanoma patients engage in regular total cutaneous exams, many do not engage in regular, thorough skin self-checks or recommended sun protection behavior. There is no work specifically targeting the unique and growing population of young onset patients and their close relatives. We are randomizing young onset melanoma survivors and their close relatives to one of two study arms: a 3-month Young Melanoma Family Facebook intervention or a General Health and Wellness Family Facebook intervention. It is my hope that we can find a way to motivate families to foster better skin cancer awareness, better sun protection, and greater engagement in surveillance. Family members do not always recognize their own risk, and I hope Facebook groups can foster communication between families to increase awareness and better sun protection, skin self-check, and physician checks.

What motivated you to work in health communication research?
I have always been interested in how families adapt to illness and manage their adaptation to serious illness. I think my goal has always been to help people facing serious illness either for themselves or their family member cope better and engage in better self-care.

Describe something that had a profound influence on your program of research or scientific interests (an "ah-ha!" moment).
I was interviewing spouses of women with rheumatoid arthritis for my dissertation, and the spouses were criticizing their wives. I really struggled to understand why someone who cared for their spouse would criticize how they were managing a serious disability illness. After this, I focused on marital relationships and cancer for 30 years.

Selected training, awards, and honors:

  • Fellow of Division 38 of the American Psychological Association
  • Fellow of the Society of Pediatric Psychology
  • Fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM)
  • Recipient of a Cancer SIG Award from SBM

I have always been interested in how families adapt to and manage serious illness. My goal is to help patients and family members cope better and engage in better self-care.”