Age, socio-economic factors could prove predictors for potential skin-cancer cases

August 4, 2006

Philadelphia -- A new study suggests that age and socio-economic factors are the strongest determinants of sunburn in the U.S. population.

Philadelphia - A new study suggests that age and socio-economic factors are the strongest determinants of sunburn in the U.S. population.

According to the study, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 39 percent of respondents to a 2003 national survey say they had at least one sunburn in the previous 12 months - a 22 percent increase since 1999. Significantly, this percentage rose dramatically as income and education levels increased and the age of respondents decreased.

A random sample of 207,776 adult respondents provided data for the population-based survey, with the main outcome measure being any report of sunburn within the last 12 months. The variables that predicted sunburn included sex, age, income, education, employment status, race, recent physician care and behavior factors such as drinking and smoking.

The study revealed that:

  • Sunburn prevalence was greatest in respondents 18 to 24 years old, with 61 percent reporting at least one sunburn in the past year.

  • People in the highest annual income level ($50,000 or more annually) were more likely to report sunburn than those in the lowest income strata (less than $20,000); 47 percent in the high income group reported sunburn, compared with 28 percent in the low income group.

  • Respondents with a college degree reported a higher sunburn incidence (43 percent) than those without a high school degree (25 percent).

  • About 44 percent of male respondents reported at least one sunburn, compared with 34 percent of female respondents.

  • Students were nearly twice as likely to sunburn than those who were unemployed (63 percent versus 33 percent, respectively).

  • In addition, respondents who reported binge drinking - defined as consuming more than five drinks in one night within the past 30 days - had a higher prevalence of sunburn than their counterparts (56 percent versus 35 percent, respectively).