Survey: More people at risk for skin cancer despite knowing sun dangers

Press Staff Writer

        Abby Weiner knew the dangers of unprotected sun exposure long before she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
        As someone with fair skin and freckles, the 43-year-old mother of three says she has always been diligent about wearing hats and using sunscreen when sitting at a beach or a pool but didn’t think about the sun exposure she was getting elsewhere until she was diagnosed with melanoma on her cheek in 2023.
        While skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, a recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults found that an increasing number of Americans are reporting sunburn despite knowing how to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays. More than one in three adults got a sunburn in 2023 — the highest numbers reported since 2020. A third of those sunburned reported a sunburn severe enough that their clothes were uncomfortable, and this was especially true among men. The most avoidable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma — the deadliest type of skin cancer — is exposure to the sun.
        In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is encouraging the public to practice safe sun to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
        “It’s extremely concerning to see so many people unnecessarily putting themselves at risk of developing skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States,” said board-certified dermatologist Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Data shows a staggering truth: one in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer, especially if they don’t take the necessary precautions.”
        Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed reported getting a tan in 2023, a 13-percentage-point increase over last year. And while Americans overwhelmingly believe sun protection is important, two out of three are unaware of all the risks associated with burning and tanning. Nearly a quarter of Americans incorrectly believe that a base tan will prevent sunburns, and one in five believe tanning is safe if you don’t burn.
        Weiner, who lives near Washington, D.C., said she has changed both her and her family’s sun protection habits following her melanoma diagnosis.
        “I was good about being out of the sun when sitting at the beach or pool, but if I was with my family outside at a restaurant and couldn’t find an umbrella, I sat in the sun,” she said. “Now I have a hat and sunscreen wherever I go, and that has become a part of my new routine. My boys used to complain about having to wear hats and putting on sunscreen, but they watched how I had to have the cancer removed and have reconstruction, and now they understand that it’s not a minor issue.”
        The survey shows that Weiner’s sun protection behavior is common. While roughly half of the survey respondents reported using sunscreen regularly when they are in the sun, they are especially unlikely to use sunscreen for activities they may not associate with UV exposure, like eating at outdoor cafes and going to farmer’s markets.
        To protect yourself from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer, the AAD recommends that everyone:
        • Seek shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
        • Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, choose clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
        • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
        “Skin cancer significantly affects your health and well-being,” said Dr. Desai. “As summer approaches, I urge everyone to practice safe sun habits to lower their skin cancer risk. If you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin, or have any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”
        To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit


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