Study Finds a Third of Americans Don't Apply Sunscreen

June 9, 2009

Despite education and marketing efforts, sunscreen utilization is lower than expected.

Despite education and marketing efforts, sunscreen utilization is lower than expected.

Considering the vast amount of educational efforts discussing skin cancer and intense marketing by sunscreen manufacturers, you would think that everyone in America would be applying sunscreen. After all sunscreen is accessible, affordable, easy-to-use, and effective. However, in a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center, 31% reported that they never apply sunscreen, even while outside for more than four hours. Just 27% of men and 48% of women reported that they apply sunscreen when they are outside in the sun for two to four hours. Only 27% of children under age 12 have sunscreen applied when they are outside for more than four hours. Surprisingly, 22% of those surveyed reported that they had been examined by a physician for a skin condition they believed might be skin cancer, and 14% reported that they had been told that they are at high risk for skin cancer.

As an oncology nurse, the reported lower than expected use of sunscreen is concerning. Many types of skin cancer are preventable by avoiding sun exposure, staying away from tanning beds, and applying sunscreen. Based on the data from the Consumer Reports survey, perhaps healthcare providers should ask about sunscreen use and emphasize its importance in preventing skin cancer.