Sun Exposure and Sun-Protection Behaviors and Attitudes Among U.S. Youth, 11 to 18 Years of Age

Prev Med. 2001 Sep;33(3):141-51. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2001.0877.


Background: Adolescence is a high-risk period for the development of melanoma and nonmelanocytic skin cancers later in life. This study examines the prevalence and correlates of sun-protection practices among U.S. youth.

Methods: During July-October, 1998, a national, population-based telephone survey was conducted (N = 1,192 paired interviews of youth and their parents). Weighted prevalence and adjusted prevalence odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were estimated. Multiple logistic regression analyses examined associations between sociodemographics, attitudes, and other modifiable correlates to specific behaviors.

Results: Routinely practiced sun-protection behaviors among youth on sunny days were wearing sunglasses (32%) or long pants (21%), staying in the shade (22%), and applying sunscreen (31%). Fifty-eight percent used a sunscreen with SPF > or =15 when at the beach or pool. Age, sex, and sun sensitivity were associated with substantial variation in some sun-protection behaviors. Factors associated with specific sun-protection behaviors included a lower appeal to tanning, a higher perceived benefit of sun protection, and information from family and friends about sun protection.

Conclusion: Effective sun protection is practiced by less than one-third of U.S. youth. This baseline survey will help to monitor progress in skin cancer prevention in this critical age group in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Sunburn / prevention & control*
  • Sunlight*
  • United States