Outdoor activities and sunburn among urban and rural families in a Western region of the US: Implications for skin cancer prevention

Prev Med Rep. 2022 Jul 21:29:101914. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101914. eCollection 2022 Oct.


Prevention of skin cancer involves decreasing exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and avoiding sunburn, especially early in life. Individuals living in urban versus rural areas, as defined by the Rural Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) code classification, have different risks for skin cancer, likely due to differing patterns of outdoor activities and preventive behaviors employed when outdoors. However, few studies have examined differences in outdoor activities between rural and urban individuals and examined this among both adults and children. This study compared the outdoor activities, sun protection strategies, tanning behaviors, and sunburn occurrence of adults and children (n = 97 dyads) in rural versus urban settings in a Western region of the United States. The relationships between outdoor activities and sunburn occurrence were examined in both groups. Analyses employed Barnard's Exact Test and logistic generalized estimating equations models. Individuals in rural and urban areas reported differences in sun protection strategies used, tanning behaviors, and outdoor activities. Individuals in urban areas more commonly reported use of certain forms of sun protection, such as sunscreen and shade, whereas long pants and skirt wearing were more common for children in rural areas. Individuals in rural areas were more likely than those in urban areas to engage in farm work, yard work, and youth sports. Gender differences in these outcomes were also identified. Skin cancer preventive interventions could be tailored for rural and urban families to target sun protection strategies to outdoor activities and to situations in which sunburns are likely to occur.

Keywords: Family; Prevention; Rural; Skin cancer; Sun protection; Ultraviolet radiation exposure.