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Sun-Protective Behavior Rates

National surveys supported by CDC indicate that U.S. youth and adults are being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and can do more to protect themselves. More than one-third of the U.S. population reported a sunburn in the previous year, with rates higher among men and the non-Hispanic white population.1


In 2008, only 58% of adults said they usually practice at least one of the three sun-protective behaviors (use sunscreen, wear sun-protective clothing, or seek shade).2

  • 32% reported usually applying sunscreen (30% applied sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher).
  • 41% reported usually wearing some type of fully sun-protective clothing.
  • 32% usually sought shade.
  • Only 45% of young adults aged 18–24 used one or more sun protective methods, while 60% of those 25 years of age and older reported using one or more methods. Among men 18 and older, only 48% reported usually using one or more methods of sun protection, in contrast to 68% of women 18 and older.


Among high school students, when they were outside for more than an hour on a sunny day, 14.4% of girls and 7.3% of boys reported they routinely used a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.3

More than 13% of high school students said they had used an indoor tanning device one or more times in the past year. Indoor tanning device use was higher among female students (21%) than male students (6%).3

About one-third of U.S. teens aged 14–17 years had a sunburn during the past year. About half of non-Hispanic white teens, 22% of Hispanic teens, 18% of non-Hispanic Asian teens, and 7% of non-Hispanic black teens had a sunburn during the past year.4


1Saraiya M, Balluz L, Wen XJ, Joseph DA. Sunburn prevalence among adults—United States, 1999, 2003, and 2004. MMWR 2007;6(21):524–528.

2National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report—2009/2010 Update: Sun Protection. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

3Eaton DK, Kann L, Kinchen S, Shanklin S, Flint KH, Hawkins J, Harris WA, Lowry R, McManus T, Chyen D, Whittle L, Lim C, Wechsler H. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2012;61(4):1–162.

4QuickStats: Percentage of teens aged 14–17 years who had a sunburn during the preceding 12 months, by race/ethnicity—National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2010. MMWR 2011;60(30):1028.