Americans Still Aren t Wearing Sunscreen

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Just in time for summer, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released a new study on the rates of sunscreen use in the United States. And unfortunately, the findings show that for the most part Americans are still not wearing sunscreen. Barely a third of adults reported using sunscreen regularly.

Skin cancer (including basal cell carcinoma) is the most common of all cancers, and the number of cases continues to rise. About 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year. Melanoma, the most dangerous and potentially deadly type of skin cancer, will account for over 70,000 cases in 2015. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun and this exposure can be lessened by sunscreen use.

The study was led by Dawn M. Holman, MPH, from the CDC and published online May 19th in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Holman and colleagues used data from the 2013 Summer ConsumerStyles survey to examine sunscreen use in over 4000 adults.

The researchers key findings were:

  • Only about 14 percent of men and 30 percent of women reported regularly using sunscreen on the face and other exposed skin
  • Almost 44 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported never using sunscreen on their faces
  • Over 42 percent of men and almost 27 percent of women reported never using sunscreen on other areas of exposed skin
  • Almost 43 percent of women reported that they regularly use sunscreen on their face, but only about 34 percent reported regularly using it on other areas of exposed skin
  • Only about 36 percent of Hispanic women and 16 percent of Hispanic men reported using sunscreen on their face
  • Almost 40 percent of sunscreen users were unaware as to whether they were using a broad-spectrum formula (protects against both UVA and UVB rays)

Overall, rates of sunscreen use are nowhere near as high as they should be. The authors bluntly conclude, Sunscreen use is low, especially among certain demographic groups.

Sunscreen use may be higher for women due to the fact that many face creams, moisturizers, and makeup contain sunscreen. Researchers also found that sunscreen is most often used by people with higher income ($60,000 or more per year) the cost of sunscreen may be a barrier to some, suggested Holman.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is considered the most preventable risk factor for all types of skin cancer. Along with cancer prevention, another benefit to sunscreen is that it decreases premature skin aging such as wrinkling and discoloration.

In addition to sunscreen, Americans can also protect themselves from UV radiation with sunglasses and hats. Also, seeking shade between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM when the sun is the strongest can greatly reduce UV exposure. With these methods, Americans can continue to enjoy the outdoors while reducing their cancer risk.

For other tips to stay safe and healthy this summer, see ACSH s Summer Tips here.