US Pharm. 2008;33(4):10.

Between 1975 and 2004 the number of new cases of melanoma rose, and it is estimated that 60,000 new cases occurred in 2007. Each year, more than a million people are diagnosed with basal-cell or squamous-cell skin cancer (nonmelanoma). Forty percent to 50% of Americans who live to the age of 65 will develop one of these two types of skin cancer at least once, but most cases of skin cancer are preventable.

The 2007 update of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Trends Progress Report used the following criteria to assess sun-protection behaviors practiced by adults aged 18 and older when they are outside for more than one hour on a warm, sunny day: using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade. Some types of protective clothing are sun visors, long-sleeved shirts, and sun-protective hats (not baseball caps) that fully protect the face, neck, and ears.

Overall Trend
Adoption of sun-protection behaviors declined from 1992 to 1998, increased between 1998 and 2000, stabilized between 2000 and 2003, and dropped slightly between 2003 and 2005.

Protective Clothing: The percentage of people who usually or always use at least one sun-protective article of clothing declined between 2003 and 2005, more so among men.

Shade: Between 1992 and 1998, the percentage of people who usually seek shade decreased; the percentage increased between 1998 and 2000, dropped between 2000 and 2003, and rose again between 2003 and 2005.

Sunscreen: The percentage of people who usually use sunscreen increased somewhat after 1992 and remained stable from 1998 to 2000. The percentage increased between 2000 and 2003, including among people who used sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. Sunscreen use dropped more steeply between 2003 and 2005 compared with any of the earlier increases.

2005 Statistics
30% of individuals reported that they usually apply sunscreen; 27% usually use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater.

18% stated that they usually wear some type of fully sun-protective clothing (if baseball caps are included with fully sun-protective hats, usual use of at least partially sun-protective clothing jumped to about 38%).

33% of individuals usually seek shade.

43% of people 18 to 24 years of age used at least one sun-protection method.

58% of individuals aged 25 years or older reported using at least one method.

47% of men aged 18 and older reported usually using at least one method of sun protection, compared with 65% of women of the same age.

Groups at Risk for Too Much Sun Exposure
Men and younger adults are less likely to use some type of sun protection. Adults with less education and with a lower income are not as likely to use sunscreen. Currently, only 56% of adults protect themselves from sun exposure. The Healthy People 2010 target is to increase the percentage of adults who are very likely to use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater, wear protective clothing, or seek shade to 75%.

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