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JULY 18, 2006
  Study Reveals Age and Socioeconomic Factors Are Strongest Determinants of Sunburn in U.S. Population
  Younger Adults and Adults with Higher Incomes and Higher Levels of Education Report Getting Burned More Than Other Americans

(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 decreased.

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 been prevented.”


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