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Behavior Rates

Some people are at higher risk of skin cancer than others, but anyone can get it. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.

Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Healthy People 2020 has cancer objectives, seven of which concern skin cancer.

Objective C-8 aims to lower the melanoma death rate from 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007 to 2.4 deaths per 100,000 people by 2020. This target was met in 2015, when the overall death rate was 2.4 per 100,000 people. Among women, the death rate is 1.5 per 100,000 women overall and 1.8 per 100,000 white women. Among men, the death rate is 3.6 per 100,000 men overall and 4.1 per 100,000 white men. For more information, see the Data Visualizations Tool.

The other six cancer objectives concern skin cancer—

Objective C-20: Increase the proportion of persons who participate in behaviors that reduce their exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) irradiation and avoid sunburn.

  • C-20.1: Reduce the proportion of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who report sunburn.
  • C-20.2: Reduce the proportion of adults aged 18 years and older who report sunburn.
  • C-20.3: Reduce the proportion of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who report using artificial sources of ultraviolet light for tanning.
  • C-20.4: Reduce the proportion of adults aged 18 and older who report using artificial sources of ultraviolet light for tanning.
  • C-20.5: Increase the proportion of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who follow protective measures that may reduce the risk of skin cancer.
  • C-20.6: Increase the proportion of adults aged 18 years and older who follow protective measures that may reduce the risk of skin cancer.

In addition to these cancer objectives, one other Healthy People 2020 objective concerns skin cancer. Objective ECBP-4.4 aims to increase the proportion of elementary, middle, and high schools that educate students about sun safety.

CDC tracks progress toward these objectives using the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and the National Health Interview Survey. Selected results are shown on the following pages.

Sunburns

A history of sunburns, especially early in life, can raise a person’s risk of getting skin cancer. Two Healthy People objectives focus on lowering the proportion of adolescents and adults who are sunburned each year.

Indoor Tanning

Exposure to UV rays while indoor tanning can cause skin cancer. Two Healthy People objectives focus on lowering the proportion of adolescents and adults who use artificial sources of UV light for tanning.

Sun Protection

Without protection, the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. UV exposure adds up over time, increasing your risk of developing skin cancer. Two Healthy People objectives focus on raising the proportion of adolescents and adults who protect themselves from the sun.

Sun Safety Education

Schools can play an important part in protecting children and teens from sun exposure that can lead to skin cancer in the future. Teaching students about sun safety is one important way schools can help reduce skin cancer. One Healthy People objective focuses on raising the proportion of schools that educate students about sun safety.

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