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HINTS Brief Suggests People Not Paying Enough Attention to Sun Safety

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Brief Description:
Recent results of the HINTS survey show folks don't seem to be taking sun safety as seriously as they should.


SCHMALFELDT: May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Why May? Summer's on the way, and with the advent of long, warm, sunny days, folks are shedding their cool weather gear and are heading back to the beaches, parks, and other places to enjoy the warmth of the sun. But how many of them are keeping sun safety in mind? That's the question posed by the Health Information National Trends Survey — otherwise known as HINTS — a data collection program which was created to monitor changes in the rapidly evolving field of health communication. Dr. Lila Finney Rutten is Program Director in the Health Communications Informatics Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. She said recent results of the survey show folks don't seem to be taking sun safety as seriously as they should.

RUTTEN: In 2005 the HINTS Survey asked a series of questions on sun safety behaviors. And, in particular, we asked about the extent to which the American public was engaging in behaviors such as wearing sun screen, the extent to which they were wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. And what we found in the survey is that the level of sun-protective behavior in the population is actually fairly low, with only about half of the population engaging in these behaviors at least some of the time.

SCHMALFELDT: Why is it important for folks to keep sun safety in mind?

YAROCH: It's important, because about one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Melanoma is actually one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer.

SCHMALFELDT: That was Dr. Amy Yaroch, Program Director in the Health Promotion Research Branch of the NCI's Behavioral Research Program. She said a single blistering sunburn is enough to significantly raise your risk for skin cancer. Other risks include being fair-skinned and repeated exposures to the sun. She said there are ways to enjoy the outdoors in the summer without increasing your risk for skin cancer.

YAROCH: Well, there's a lot of things that you can do. First of all you can wear a sun screen with an SPF of 15 or greater. You can cover up, and what that means is to wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and your neck and your ears. You can wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants as well as sunglasses and seek shade between peak hours which would be between 10 and 2.

SCHMALFELDT: Dr. Yaroch also said early detection is key in preventing the devastating effects of skin cancer. She said dermatologists recommend monthly checks to see if you have anything on your skin a doctor should take a closer look at. To help you remember what to be looking for, think of "A-B-C-D" — meaning most early melanomas are asymmetrical, their borders are uneven, their colors can have varied shades of brown, black or tan, and their diameter are usually the size of a pencil eraser or larger. There are several websites you can browse for more information about sun safety. For more on the HINTS Survey, visit or you could visit From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.

Date: 05/11/2007
Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite:
Dr. Lila Finney Rutten,
Dr. Amy Yaroch
Sun Safety, Skin Cancer
Institute(s): NCI

This page was last reviewed on May 11, 2007 .

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