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24-05-2012 | Article

Sunburn common in young adults


CDC website

MedWire News: Young adults are still not getting the safe sun message, say researchers who found that around half reported being sunburnt at least once in the past year.

"More public health efforts, including providing shade and sunscreen in recreational settings, are needed to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and sunburn prevention to reduce the burden of skin cancer," said co-author of the study Marcus Plescia (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], Atlanta, Georgia, USA) in a press statement.

Skin cancer, which is mainly caused by overexposure to the sun, is the most common type of cancer in the USA, affecting around 2 million people each year. Furthermore, rates of the disease have increased in recent years.

Sunburn is a risk factor for skin cancer, with the risk increasing with a greater number of sunburn episodes during life.

Researchers from the CDC and the National Cancer Institute studied sunburn rates and sun protective behaviour among 18-29-year-olds who participated in the National Health Interview Survey.

They found that 50% of all those surveyed reported at least one episode of sunburn during 2010.

Sunburn rates were highest among White people (66%) and lowest in Black people (10.9%), while there was no significant difference in rates between men and women, at 49% and 51%, respectively.

The most common sun protective behaviours reported by women in 2010 were using sunscreen (37%) and staying in the shade (35%). White women were less likely to stay in the shade, and Black women were less likely to use sunscreen than other racial groups.

Among men, the most common sun protective behaviours reported in 2010 were wearing long clothing to the ankles (33%) and staying in the shade (26%).

In an editorial note accompanying the findings, published in a report by the CDC, the researchers conclude: "Continued public health efforts are needed to facilitate sun protection, prevent sunburn, and avoid increases in skin cancer cases."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen