Our Happy Valley skin doctors at Valley View Dermatology work hard to help patients better understand the dangers they face from the sun on a daily basis. While a recent survey found that nearly all Americans agree that protection from the sun is important, nearly half don’t use sunscreen when heading outdoors. The survey, conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology, also found that over a third of all Americans also believe that tanning is actually a healthy habit.
With states beginning to reopen en masse, people from coast to coast have started leaving their homes and heading outside to enjoy the summer months. Yet, while the survey found that four out of five adults understood that they should reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors, only one out of three respondents actually made the effort. Additionally, while 77 percent of survey respondents said they would use sunscreen when heading to the beach or poolside, only 44 percent said they apply sunscreen before working in the yard or gardening.
“These findings are surprising and seem to suggest that many people do not take skin cancer seriously or perhaps believe skin cancer won’t happen to them,” wrote representatives from the American Academy of Dermatology. The AAD also noted that “unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma.”
Protection from the Sun Not a Pressing Issue
As our Happy Valley skin doctors tell patients, suffering just one sunburn significantly increases their risk for developing skin cancer.
In the survey, a quarter of all respondents reported suffering a sunburn at some point in 2020, with the youngest adults most likely to suffer a burn. Overall, sunburn was reported by 43 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 to 23; 36 percent of those 24 to 39; 25 percent of those 40 to 55; 12 percent of those 56 to 74; and just 7 percent of those aged 75 and older.
Roughly a quarter of those who suffered a sunburn reported their burn made it uncomfortable for them to wear clothing.
“Americans see the damaging effects of the sun on their skin as they get older, and two out of three look back and wish they had been more careful. But when it comes to cancer, specifically, most feel unconcerned in spite of their own risk,” reported the AAD.
A lack of concern over skin cancer broke down as follows: Over two-thirds of the survey respondents have at least one possible risk factor for skin cancer – lighter skin tone, green or blue eyes, over 50 moles, family history – but only 36 percent expressed concern about developing skin cancer.
“Nearly half of survey respondents say they are more worried about avoiding sunburn than they are about preventing skin cancer, and a third are more worried about avoiding premature wrinkles than they are about preventing cancer,” reported the AAD.
Survey Finds Avoiding Sun Exposure a Mixed Bag
As part of the survey, respondents were asked how often they used some type of sun protection. While 85 percent reported using some type of protection when heading outdoors, the measures taken varied widely:
- 59 percent sought out shade when outdoors
- 55 percent would apply sunscreen
- 45 percent avoid heading outdoors during the hottest times of day
- 38 percent wear a hat
- 26 percent wear clothing that covers their skin
When examined as a whole, even though most people take actions to protect themselves from direct sun exposure, many of the measures recorded in the survey leave much to be desired. Wearing just a hat, trying to stand in the shade, or applying sunscreen only once a day are not effective measures on their own to help your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
Excessive sun exposure does more than just increase your risk for skin cancer. Tanning causes the skin to age prematurely, allows wrinkles to develop at a young age, and can result in the development of sunspots and skin discoloration.
If you want to enjoy healthy, youthful-looking skin, you need to make the protection of your skin a top priority whenever you head outdoors. Our Happy Valley skin doctors recommend that our patients always apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 whenever heading outside.
By taking just a few minutes to apply sunscreen, you can significantly reduce your risk for skin cancer while also keeping your skin looking and feeling great.