High Prevalence of Sunburn in U.S. Highlights Need for Targeted Prevention

About half of individuals aged 18 to 29 and those with sun-sensitive skin experienced sunburn
About half of individuals aged 18 to 29 and those with sun-sensitive skin experienced sunburn

HealthDay News — The prevalence of sunburn was 34.2% in 2015, and sunburn prevalence was higher in non-Hispanic whites, younger age groups, and those with sun-sensitive skin, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Dermatology.

Dawn M. Holman, MPH, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined the prevalence of sun protection use and sunburn in a cross-sectional study using a nationally representative sample of 31,162 U.S. adults. 

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The researchers found that 34.2% of participants experienced sunburn in 2015. The prevalence was higher among younger age groups (51.2% for those aged 18 to 29 years) and in non-Hispanic whites and those with sun-sensitive skin (42.5 and 50.2%, respectively). Sunburn was also prevalent among blacks and Hispanics (13.2 and 29.7%, respectively). Staying in the shade, using sunscreen, and wearing long clothing to the ankles were the most frequent sun protection behaviors (37.1, 31.5, and 28.4%, respectively). There was a significant association for sun avoidance behaviors (seeking shade and not going in the sun) with lower prevalence of sunburn. The likelihood of experiencing sunburn was increased for those who self-applied sunless tanning products, those who engaged in aerobic exercise, binge drinkers, and overweight or obese individuals.

"Efforts to improve vigilance and consistency with use of sun protection are needed," the authors write.

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