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28-07-2011 | Article

US Latino population show limited awareness of sun safety

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Latinos living in the USA have adopted certain "sun safe" measures such as using sunscreen but not others, such as wearing protective clothing, research suggests.

The findings support the need for greater education of immigrant Latinos about the dangers of sun exposure, say Valentina Andreeva (University of Paris XIII, Bobigny, France) and team writing in the Archives of Dermatology.

DNA damage and skin cancer are an important health issue for US Latinos, who have experienced a substantial increase in the rates of skin cancer in the past 20 years. Furthermore, skin cancer in Latinos is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage than in their non-Latino White counterparts.

To investigate this issue further, Andreeva and colleagues obtained information from a 2005 survey of US health trends. They focused on the 496 survey respondents who classified themselves as either Latino or Hispanic; the survey included questions about sun-safe behaviors such as wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and seeking shade on sunny days.

The researchers also determined each participant's level of acculturation, or integration into US society, based on their ability to speak English, duration of residence in the USA, and age at arrival in the country.

Finally, the researchers looked at sociodemographic factors, such as access to healthcare and level of education, as potential influences on the respondents' attitudes.

The researchers found that the greater the level of acculturation, the more likely people were to use sunscreen but the less likely they were to wear sun-protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

These patterns of behavior were strongly influenced by the individual's level of education, perceived health status, and social networks, however. Indeed, social networks - defined as the number of neighbors on whom the participant could rely - appeared to have the greatest impact on how likely individuals were to adopt sun-safe measures.

"In conclusion, sun safety practice is critical for the prevention of skin cancer regardless of skin type, but no ethnoracial group appears to meet current primary prevention recommendations," write the study authors.

"Our results, denoting variability in the mediation mechanisms for different sun-safe behaviors, could guide primary prevention program development for Latinos and future public health research."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford