Vacations to sunny destinations, sunburn, and intention to tan: a cross-sectional study in Denmark, 2007-2009

Scand J Public Health. 2011 Feb;39(1):64-9. doi: 10.1177/1403494810391526.


Background: Denmark has experienced an increase in melanoma incidence since the 1960s. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the main preventable cause of this cancer. We examined current travel to, and sun-related behaviour of Danes at, sunny destinations in relation to their risk for sunburn.

Method: A population-based sample of 11,158 respondents aged 15-59 years completed three questionnaires in 2007-2009 that included items on exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Using logistic regression analysis we examined the relations between sunny vacations, sun-related behaviour, demographic factors and risk for sunburn.

Results: During 2007-2009, 44.8-45.8% of the respondents travelled to a sunny destination at least once a year; 24% became sunburnt, and 69% tanned intentionally. The odds ratio for sunburn in general for people who went on a sunny vacation as compared with those who did not was 1.6 (1.5-1.7). Sunscreen use (1.9; 1.4-2.6) and intentional tanning (3.4; 2.8-4.1) were positively associated with sunburn on vacation.

Conclusions: Taking a vacation in a sunny place is a risk factor for sunburn, especially for young people. The recommendation for sunscreen use should be re-evaluated, as intention to tan is the most important factor in sunburn on vacation and should be targeted more strategically.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Denmark / ethnology
  • Female
  • Holidays
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunbathing* / psychology
  • Sunburn* / etiology
  • Sunburn* / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Travel
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Young Adult


  • Sunscreening Agents