Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is known to be the leading cause of skin cancer, the most common type of
cancer in the US. Some groups are more susceptible to the sun's damaging rays than are others, depending on their
skin type and where they live. Consequently, it is important to monitor the population's sun exposure as well as their
behaviors for avoiding it, especially among at-risk groups. As some of the effects of UV exposure are cumulative and
childhood and adolescent exposures are especially sensitive periods, lifetime exposure is an important aspect.
The Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch monitors behaviors related to sun exposure by adding questions to existing
surveys of adults, such as the National Health Interview
Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Module and the California
Health Interview Survey (CHIS). We also include questions in surveys of children and adolescents, such as the
National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD HEALTH) and
the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). We ask about skin
type and the number of sunburns. We also ask about behaviors to protect against sun exposure, such as:
- using sunscreen;
- wearing protective clothing; and
- seeking shade when outdoors on a sunny day.
In 2005, we added questions to the NHIS Cancer Control Module on indoor tanning use.
All of these behaviors are mentioned in the Healthy People 2010
objective related to sun protection.