Sunburn still common in our country

Michael Tjoelker
Woman in beach hat

This is a great time to be outdoors, doing the things you love to do. Taking care of your skin while enjoying the outdoors is important. Michael Tjoelker, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic, suggests the following research showing the importance of protecting yourself from the harmful effects of the sun and what you can do to prevent sunburn.

In the United States skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer, and melanoma is the most lethal type of skin cancer. According to two studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, young adults are increasing their risk for developing the disease.


In the first study, the researchers found that 50% of people aged between 18 to 29 reported that they had suffered at least one sunburn in the previous year, even though protective behaviors such as wearing long clothing to the ankles, sunscreen use, and seeking shade has increased. 66% of young white adults reported sunburn vs. 11% of blacks.

In the second study, the researchers found that indoor tanning is still popular among young adults, especially among white women aged 18-21 years (32%) and 22-25 years (30%). Among white adults who reported tanning indoors, 58% of women and 40% of men revealed that they used a tanning bed 10+ times in the past year. White women aged 18-21 who reported indoor tanning used tanning beds on an average of 28 times in the previous year.

Furthermore, white women aged between 18-21 years in the Midwest had the highest prevalence of indoor tanning (44%), as well as white women aged 22-25 years living in the south (36%).  According to the researchers indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases a person's risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

Individuals should take the following steps in order to protect themselves from sunburn and an increased risk of cancer:

  • Wear long clothing to protect exposed skin
  • Avoid indoor tanning
  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protective factor 15 or higher, and protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
  • Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, head, ears and neck

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