Miami, FL

Survey finds young Americans lack understanding of sun safety and deadly skin cancer

Adriana Jimenez

(MIAMI) As skin cancer remains on the rise, a recent survey by the American Academy of Dermatology suggests skin cancer awareness is crucial among younger Americans. One-third of Americans failed a basic quiz provided by the AAD on skin cancer and sun exposure. The same study revealed that Gen Z (people born after 1996) had the most significant misunderstandings about sun exposure, followed closely by Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996).

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"As dermatologists who see firsthand the impact that skin cancer, including melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — has on our patients and their families, it's concerning to see that so many individuals still do not understand how to protect themselves from ultraviolet exposure," says board-certified dermatologist Kenneth J. Tomecki in an AAD news release.

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed:

  • 35% either incorrectly believe or are unsure that tanning is safe as long as you don't burn.
  • 31% are unaware that tanning causes skin cancer.

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But, the younger the adult, the greater the lack of understanding of skin cancer: Of Gen Z respondents, 42% were unaware that tanning causes skin cancer; 41% didn't know that UV rays are reflected by snow, water and sand; and 33% didn't realize they could get sunburned on a cloudy day. Among millennials, 42% were unaware the sun's UV rays can penetrate clothing; 37% didn't know that tanning causes skin cancer; 23% were unaware that sunburn increases skin cancer risk

  • 42% of Gen Z and 37% of millennials didn't know tanning causes cancer.
  • 33% of Gen Z didn't realize they could get sunburned on a cloudy day.

For Floridians, who are more likely to get skin cancer than any other cancer, the findings may be particularly concerning. According to the American Cancer Society, about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and at least 86 percent of melanoma cases are linked to ultraviolet light and sun exposure. And, it doesn't take much sun damage to increase your chances of developing skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 increases one's melanoma risk by 80% and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 68%. The good news is, covering up and using sunscreen are effective ways to cut your chance of developing skin cancer.

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To help reduce skin cancer risk, the AAD recommends the following three steps when outdoors:

  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing with UV protection when possible
  • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours.

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