Women, Young People At Highest Sunburn Risk

Behaviors may make these groups more vulnerable to skin cancer

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FRIDAY, April 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Everyone loves the sun, but women, teens, young adults and hardcore "sun worshippers" are most likely to suffer sunburns, a new Danish study finds.

Experts believe sunburns are a strong risk factor for skin cancer.

The study included 340 Danes, average age 30, who wore wristwatch-like devices that measured their sun exposure. Participants also filled out diaries documenting their sunburns, sun-exposure behavior and sun-exposure location.

The study found that most sunburn days occurred on a person's day off work (91 percent); while engaging in "risky" sun behavior such as sunbathing or exposing shoulders (79 percent); and in May, June or July (90 percent).

On days when people suffered sunburns, they were exposed to the sun for an average of 6.4 hours, of which an average of 2.8 hours of exposure took place between noon and 3 p.m. Overall, teenagers, "sun worshippers" and indoor workers had more sunburns than individuals often engaged in outdoor activities, such as children, golfers and gardeners, the study found.

The number of sunburns peaked at age 20. Even though they used sunscreen more often, women reported suffering one sunburn more than men, on average. That was due to more days of risky sun behavior by women, the researchers said.

"Campaigns to prevent sunburn should aim at reducing the number of days with risky behavior, and be directed at adolescents, young adults and sun worshippers," the authors suggested.

The findings appear in the April issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about sunlight and UV exposure.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 18, 2005

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