Sunburns

A history of sunburns, especially early in life, can raise a person’s risk of getting skin cancer. Healthy PeopleExternal provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Healthy People 2020 has two objectives regarding sunburns—

  • 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.

Adolescents

Healthy People 2020 did not set a specific target for adolescents because baseline sunburn data were not available for this group when the targets were set. The latest data show that about five out of every 10 high school boys and more than six out of every 10 high school girls report getting a sunburn in the last year.

Percentage of U.S. High School Students Who Reported Getting a Sunburn in the Past Year in 2017

In ninth grade students, 61.5 percent of girls and 53.6 of boys reported getting a sunburn in 2017. In tenth grade students, 61.2 percent of girls and 52.9 of boys reported getting a sunburn in 2017. In eleventh grade students, 59.9 percent of girls and 51.2 of boys reported getting a sunburn in 2017. In twelfth grade students, 63.9 percent of girls and 53.2 of boys reported getting a sunburn in 2017.

Data source: 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Adults

For adults, the Healthy People 2020 target is to reduce the proportion of adults who have been sunburned in the last year to 33.8% by 2020. In 2010, 37.5% of adults reported being sunburned in the last year.

Percentage of U.S. Adults Who Reported Getting a Sunburn in the Past Year, by Age Group

The percentage of U.S. adults aged 18 to 29 who reported getting a sunburn in the past year dropped from 50 percent in 2010 to 47.2 percent in 2015. The percentage of U.S. adults aged 30 to 39 who reported getting a sunburn in the past year dropped from 45.8 percent in 2010 to 44.2 percent in 2015. The percentage of U.S. adults aged 40 to 49 who reported getting a sunburn in the past year dropped from 42.7 percent in 2010 to 38.5 percent in 2015. The percentage of U.S. adults aged 50 to 65 who reported getting a sunburn in the past year dropped from 30.6 percent in 2010 to 29.4 percent in 2015. The percentage of U.S. adults aged 66 and over who reported getting a sunburn in the past year dropped from 13.0 percent in 2010 to 12.4 percent in 2015. The Healthy People 2020 target percentage is 33.8 percent.

Data source: National Health Interview Survey, 2010 and 2015.

Page last reviewed: October 31, 2018