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New American Academy of Dermatology survey shows most Americans are not concerned about skin cancer, even if they are at risk

Board-certified dermatologists urge the public to practice safe sun

ROSEMONT, Ill. (April 25, 2023) — As an African American female, Ilia Smith didn’t think she would get melanoma. However, after years of tanning and being outdoors, her life changed drastically when she was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma. While Ilia makes sure she protects herself from the sun now, her attitudes about skin cancer early on are similar to the attitudes and behaviors of many Americans.

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet a recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults found that 61% of Americans are not concerned about developing skin cancer, even though 67% of respondents have characteristics that put them at risk. In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May and Melanoma Monday® on May 1, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is encouraging the public to #PracticeSafeSun to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

“I’m very surprised to see that so many people are not concerned about developing skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime,” said board-certified dermatologist Terrence A. Cronin Jr., MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, and you increase that risk if you do not protect yourself from the sun when you are outside.”

Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun or indoor tanning is the most preventable cause of skin cancer. While skin cancer develops in people of all ages, genders, races, and nationalities, there are characteristics that can increase your risk. Risk factors for all types of skin cancer include skin that burns easily; blonde or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; a weakened immune system; and a history of skin cancer.

While most of the survey respondents are not concerned about skin cancer, many are concerned about sunburn and premature aging. In fact, 48% say they are more worried about avoiding sunburn than they are about preventing skin cancer. Additionally, 29% are more worried about avoiding premature wrinkles than they are about preventing skin cancer.

“While it’s great to see that people are concerned about sunburn and premature aging, they should be more concerned about skin cancer as it can disfigure you and even cause death if it’s not diagnosed early when it’s most treatable,” said Dr. Cronin. “By using sun protection when you are going to be outside, you can reduce your risk of all three: skin cancer, sunburn, and premature aging.”

To protect yourself from the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer, the AAD recommends that everyone:

  • Seek shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.

    To help the public protect themselves from the sun, the AAD has awarded 10 shade structure grants to public schools and non-profit organizations this year for the installation of permanent shade structures for outdoor locations that are not protected from the sun, such as playgrounds, pools, or recreation spaces. Since 1999, the AAD’s Shade Structure Grant Program has awarded 498 shade structure grants that protect an estimated 3.7 million children and adults from overexposure to the sun each day.

  • Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, choose clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.

  • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Dr. Cronin, who lives in Florida, says he protects his family by recommending wearing hats, seeking shade, rocking sunglasses, wearing sun protective clothing, and, of course, applying an effective sunscreen!

“Skin cancer can have a serious impact on your health and well-being,” said Dr. Cronin. “As we head into summer, I encourage everyone to practice safe sun to reduce their risk of skin cancer. In addition, if you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin, or have any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

To learn more about how to prevent skin cancer, visit PracticeSafeSun.org. To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Angela Panateri, apanateri@aad.org

Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

Sun Protection

Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Awareness Month

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,800 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube and @AADskin1 on Instagram.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.