National Cancer Institute
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Risk Factor Monitoring & Methods
Cancer Control and Population Sciences

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Sun Exposure

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.

Last modified:
28 Apr 2006
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