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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 May 11;61(18):317-22.

Sunburn and sun protective behaviors among adults aged 18-29 years--United States, 2000-2010.


Skin cancer is an important public health concern. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, comprised mainly of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are the most common malignancies in the United States. Melanoma, although less common, is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers can be disfiguring, negatively affect quality of life, and create economic burden. Furthermore, age-adjusted incidence rates of both have increased in recent years. Different patterns of sun exposure are associated with different types of skin cancer. Continuous, chronic sun exposure, such as that observed among outdoor workers is associated with squamous cell carcinoma. Intermittent exposure, such as recreational exposure, is associated with melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. Sunburn typically occurs after intermittent exposure, and the risk for melanoma increases with an increasing number of sunburns during all periods of life. Sunburn is more common among persons aged 18-29 years compared with older adults. To evaluate trends in sunburn and sun protective behaviors among persons aged 18-29 years, CDC and the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from the 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The results indicated that although protective behaviors such as sunscreen use, shade use, and wearing long clothing to the ankles have increased in recent years, sunburn prevalence remains high, with 50.1% of all adults and 65.6% of whites aged 18-29 years reporting at least one sunburn in the past 12 months. These results suggest that additional efforts are needed to identify and implement effective strategies targeting younger adults to improve their sun protective behaviors and prevent sunburn and ultimately skin cancer.

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