AACR Study Suggests Sunscreen Message Still Needs Work

Although, more people are using sunscreen now than in past years, the industry still has a ways to go, according to a study conducted by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The study found that not only do only 17.2% of Americans use sunscreen on a regular basis, but only 32% of melanoma survivors wear sunscreen regularly.

Anees B. Chagpar, MD, associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, along with her and colleagues, evaluated data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, an annual, cross-sectional survey of the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States that asks questions on a wide range of health topics. They focused on data collected on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices and indoor tanning.Their findings were presented at the the AACR's Annual Meeting on Apr. 6-10, 2013.

Although most survivors of melanoma take precautions to protect their skin from the sun, 27% do not use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, and more than 2% still use tanning beds. “We know that melanoma is a malignancy prevalent in our population, and we know that for many people with melanoma, sun exposure is a major risk factor for recurrence and sun protection may reduce their chances of getting melanoma again,” said Chagpar. “Although we found that melanoma survivors did better than the general public at protecting their skin from the sun, we also found that more than a quarter of melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen. That blew my mind.”

Of 27,120 adults, 171 had a prior history of melanoma. Researchers found that compared with those individuals who reported no history of melanoma, survivors were more likely to stay in the shade (15.6% versus 10.5% of the general population) and wear a baseball cap/visor (31.3% versus 18.4%), wide-brimmed hat (20.5% versus 6.1%) and/or long-sleeved shirt (12% versus 5.2%) when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour.

They were also more likely to always wear sunscreen (32%  versus 17.2%). However, 15.4% of melanoma survivors still reported rarely or never staying in the shade, 27.3% reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour (compared with 35.4% of the general population), and 2.1% reported using a tanning bed during the previous year (compared with 5.5% of the general population).

“We now know that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better. This study speaks to what we could do to educate melanoma survivors on how to prevent recurrence,” Chagpar said. In addition, she recommended researchers use the data to educate the general population, as the results revealed that only 17.2% of Americans will always use sunscreen and 5.5% still use tanning beds.

As the strong summer sun approaches, the above study can be used by the industry to convince more consumers to use sunscreen, reapplying it as directed to prevent skin cancer or signs of premature aging.

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