Risky Behaviors Increase Skin Cancer Risk Among Young Adults

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(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Risk for developing skin cancer is increasing among young adults ages 18 to 29 years, specifically related to behavior, according to two reports in the May 10, 2012, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Although certain sun-protective behaviors such as sunscreen use, staying in the shade, and wearing long clothing to the ankles increased during 2000–2010 among U.S. adults aged 18–29 years, there has not been a corresponding decrease in sunburns among this age group,” the study noted. Among this age group, 50% “reported at least one sunburn in the past year despite an increase in protective behaviors such as sunscreen use, seeking shade, and wearing long clothing to the ankles.” Whites reported the highest sunburn prevalence, 66% in 2010; the lowest rates were among blacks, 10% in 2010.

Sun-protective behaviors reported among women were using sunscreen (37%) and staying in the shade (35%). However, white women were less likely to stay in the shade, and black women were less likely to use sunscreen compared to other racial/ethnic groups, they found. Among men, the most common sun-protective behaviors reported were wearing long clothing to the ankles (33%) and staying in the shade (26%).

Although the CDC noted the most important preventable risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds, 5.6% of U.S. adults reported indoor tanning in the past 12 months. The highest prevalence of indoor tanning was among white women aged 18–21 years (31.8%) and aged 22–25 years (29.6%). Rates were particularly high among those aged 18–21 years in the Midwest (44.0%), and aged 22–25 years in the South (36.4%).

Of those who reported indoor tanning, the average number of visits was 28 annually. Among white adults who reported indoor tanning, 58% of women and 40% of men had used a tanning bed 10 or more times in the previous year.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The studies, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, evaluated data from the National Health Interview Survey's Cancer Control Supplement.

CDC Press Release

MMWR sunburn article

MMWR tanning bed article

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