(Philadelphia, PA) - According to a study that
appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,
39 percent of respondents of a national survey conducted in 2003
had at least one sunburn in the previous 12 months, a 22 percent
increase since 1999. Additionally, this percentage rose dramatically
as income and education levels increased and the age of respondents
Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor
of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School
of Medicine, and co-author of the report “The epidemiology
of sunburn in the U.S. population in 2003,” says, “Our
research confirms previous findings that younger adults continue
to be the group most likely to get sunburned and, as a result, are
at an increased risk for developing future skin cancers.”
He adds, “The increased number of sunburns among people with
the highest incomes could be attributed to their ability to travel
to tropical destinations more often than those with a lower income.”
Gelfand studied the prevalence of and risk factors for sunburn
in the United States using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s
(CDC) 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). A
random sample of 207,776 adult respondents provided data for the
population-based survey, with the main outcome measure being any
report of sunburn within the last 12 months. The variables which
predicted sunburn included sex, age, income, education, employment
status, race, recent physician care, and behavior factors such as
drinking and smoking.
The study revealed that sunburn prevalence was greatest in respondents
18 to 24 years old, with 61% reporting at least one sunburn in the
past year. When income and educational levels were examined, the
study showed that individuals in the highest income strata (equal
to or greater than $50,000) were more likely to report sunburn than
those in the lowest income strata (less than $20,000) - 47% vs.
28%, respectively. In addition, respondents with a college degree
reported a higher sunburn incidence than those without a high school
degree - 43% vs. 25%, respectively.
Other variables that had a high correlation to increased sunburns
included gender, employment status and alcohol use. Overall, 44%
of male respondents reported at least one sunburn compared with
34% of female respondents. Students were nearly twice as likely
to sunburn than those who were unemployed (63% vs. 33%, respectively).
In addition, 47% percent of employed respondents reported being
sunburned. The study also found that respondents who reported binge
drinking - defined as consuming more than 5 drinks in one night
within the past 30 days - had a higher prevalence of sunburn than
their counterparts (56% vs. 35%, respectively).
“Based on our finding of 39% sunburn prevalence in the general
population, it is critical that the groups most at-risk for sunburns
receive education about the serious risks of sunburn,” says
Gelfand. “Sunburns also exact a financial toll on society.
Sunburns have been shown to cost employers millions of dollars in
lost wages every year from employees taking sick time as a result
of their painful skin injury - which pales in comparison to the
billions of dollars spent treating skin cancers that could have
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