Skin Cancer Risk Behaviors Among U.S. Adults
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers can cause scars and reduce survivors’ quality of life. Skin cancer treatment costs Americans about $1.7 billion each year.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun and indoor tanning devices. Too much exposure to UV rays causes sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. Sunburn is a health outcome that can be used to track the progress of skin cancer prevention efforts.
The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) asks adults in the United States about a variety of information, including their sun protective behaviors, number of sunburns in the past year, and indoor tanning. One study used NHIS data to look at trends over time in sun-protective behaviors (using sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long clothing to the ankles) and sunburn among U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 29 years. A second study used NHIS data to look at indoor tanning among U.S. adults aged 18 years and older.
In 2010, among U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 29 years—
- Experiencing one or more sunburns in the past year was most common among non-Hispanic whites (66%) and least common among non-Hispanic blacks (11%).
- To protect themselves from the sun, women most often used sunscreen (37%) and stayed in the shade (35%). Non-Hispanic white women were less likely to stay in the shade, and non-Hispanic black women were less likely to use sunscreen compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
- To protect themselves from the sun, men most often wore long clothing to the ankles (33%) and stayed in the shade (26%).
In 2010, among U.S. adults aged 18 years and older—
- Non-Hispanic white women between the ages of 18 and 21 years were most likely to use indoor tanning devices (32%). Those who reported indoor tanning device use reported an average of 28 sessions in the past year.
- Among non-Hispanic white adults who used an indoor tanning device in the past year, 58% of women and 40% of men used one 10 times or more in the past year.
- Non-Hispanic white women between the ages of 18 and 21 years residing in the Midwest (44%) and non-Hispanic white women between the ages of 22 and 25 old in the South (36%) were most likely to use indoor tanning devices.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sunburn and sun protective behaviors among adults aged 18–29 years—United States, 2000–2010. MMWR 2012;61(18):317–322.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of indoor tanning devices by adults—United States, 2010. MMWR 2012;61(18):323–326.