Use of sunscreen down as skin cancer rates rise

July 5, 2005

National report -- According to a study released in June by the Sun Safety Alliance, the number of Americans using sunscreen, a primary protector against skin cancer, has declined over the past year -- while the number of Americans, including children, being diagnosed with skin cancer has risen to an all-time high.

National report -- According to a study released in June by the Sun Safety Alliance, the number of Americans using sunscreen, a primary protector against skin cancer, has declined over the past year -- while the number of Americans, including children, being diagnosed with skin cancer has risen to an all-time high.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for the non-profit Sun Safety Alliance, polled a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and over. The results show a 12-point decline, from 72 percent to 60 percent, in the percentage of Americans who report using sunscreen when outdoors. The survey findings also show that large percentages of individuals say they are not following other recommended precautions, such as covering exposed skin (56 percent), staying in the shade (48 percent) and wearing a hat (45 percent).

Healthy children
The survey was released by the Sun Safety Alliance in conjunction with its first annual Sun Safety Week (June 5-11). U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., joined in marking the first annual Sun Safety Week as part of the 2005 agenda of the Office of the Surgeon General, "The Year of the Healthy Child."

Dr. Carmona noted that skin cancer is increasingly striking younger people, and that parents must be diligent about protecting their children and themselves in the sun and establishing year-round "safe sun practices," such as staying inside during mid-day when the sun is the hottest, wearing a hat and sunglasses when outside, and applying sunscreen frequently--SPF 15 or higher for adults and SPF 30 or higher for children.

Parents apparently need such a reminder: According to the survey, while the vast majority of adults (85 percent) say they know the dangers of overexposure to the sun and believe skin cancer is a serious issue (91 percent), one in seven (14 percent) admit they do nothing to protect themselves in the sun. When asked why, one in three adults claim they simply forget.

Not translating
Phillip Schneider, executive director of the Sun Safety Alliance, said the survey indicates that while public awareness of the dangers of sun exposure is high, that awareness isn't translating into people taking proactive steps to protect themselves and their children. He said the main motivation for the Sun Safety Alliance's launching of Sun Safety Week was to "focus people's attention on the simple actions they can take to make sun safety a part of their everyday activities, like brushing their teeth."

The number of skin cancer cases in the United States, estimated to be 1.3 million this year, exceeds the total number of breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer cases combined. Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun, which has been classified as a carcinogen by the federal government, is the No. 1 cause of skin damage that leads to skin cancer. A little-known fact among the public: Skin cancer results in the death of one person every hour.

To further rally the public around the practice and promotion of safe sun habits, the Sun Safety Alliance and the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation have partnered in an effort to encourage Americans to join Mothers & Others Against Skin Cancer, an initiative designed to mobilize mothers and other citizens to embrace sun-safety practices with their families and volunteer to promote sun safety in their communities. Visit www.sunsafetyalliance.org for more information.

-- Compiled by Staff Correspondent Bill Gillette