Despite aggressive public awareness initiatives aimed at encouraging skin cancer prevention strategies, the majority of Americans are not regularly using sunscreen, new research shows.
The alarming findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the results of a 2013 survey that asked participants how often they use sunscreen when outside in the sun for more than an hour. Just 14.3% of men and 29.9% of women reported that they regularly use sunscreen on both their face and other exposed skin.
“Women may be more likely to use sunscreen on the face because of the anti-aging benefits, or because of the many cosmetic products on the market that contain sunscreen,” says Dawn Holman, MPH. “However, it’s important to protect your whole body from the sun, not just your face.”
A higher percentage of women reported that they regularly use sunscreen on their face (42.6%) than on other exposed skin (34.4%). This discrepancy was smaller among men, with 18.1% regularly using sunscreen on their face and 19.9% regularly using it on other exposed skin, the study showed.
“Women may be more likely to use sunscreen on the face because of the anti-aging benefits, or because of the many cosmetic products on the market that contain sunscreen,” says Dawn Holman, MPH, a behavioral scientist at the CDC and the study’s lead author. “However, it’s important to protect your whole body from the sun, not just your face.”
Men were more likely than women to never use sunscreen, with 43.8% of men (compared to 27% of women) saying they never use sunscreen on their face and 42.1% of men (compared to 26.8% of women) saying they never use it on other exposed skin. Sunscreen use is particularly low among those with lower incomes, non-Hispanic blacks, and individuals whose skin is less sensitive to the sun, the researchers report.
Nine Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The American Academy of Dermatology offers the following sun-safety tips for reducing the risk of skin cancer:
- Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen at least 15 minute before sun exposure.
- Use enough sunscreen to cover your whole body (about an ounce for most adults), and apply it to all exposed areas, including the ears, scalp, tops of the feet, and legs.
- Ask someone else to help you apply sunscreen on hard-to-reach spots like your back.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Seek shade, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.
- Use extra caution near water, sand, or snow, all of which can reflect and intensify UV rays.
- If you want to look tan, use a self-tanning product, but continue using sunscreen with it.