sun workplace wellness

Study Adds Data, Guidance to Sun Protection Importance

Last week, with Memorial Day Weekend and summer’s unofficial start approaching, we offered key sun protection reminders.

To begin, Friday was Don’t Fry Day: “To help reduce rising rates of skin cancer from overexposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as ‘Don’t Fry Day’ to encourage sun safety awareness and to remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. Because no single step can fully protect you and your family from overexposure to UV radiation, follow as many of the following tips as possible:”

  • Do Not Burn or Tan
  • Seek Shade
  • Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
  • Generously Apply Sunscreen
  • Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand
  • Get Vitamin D Safely

As we noted, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. To lower your skin cancer risk, protect your skin from the sun and avoid indoor tanning.”

A recent study provides even more information and guidance — important news for well-run workplace wellness programs that seek to engage and educate employees about the dangers of the sun and skin cancer.

The study was published in the JAMA Dermatol journal and is titled “Prevalence of Sun Protection Use and Sunburn and Association of Demographic and Behaviorial Characteristics With Sunburn Among US Adults.”

As the authors state: “Monitoring sun protection and sunburn over time at the population level can provide valuable information about progress toward skin cancer prevention goals and inform future intervention efforts. To examine the prevalence of sun protection use (shade, sunscreen, and clothing) and sunburn and the association between sunburn and individual characteristics and health behaviors in the US population.”

To conduct the report, researchers employed a cross-sectional study using a nationally representative sample of 31,162 US adults from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey-Cancer Control Supplement. Among the results:

  • “Sunburn prevalence was higher among younger age groups (51.2% in adults 18-29 years old), non-Hispanic white individuals (42.5%;), and those with sun-sensitive skin (50.2%).”
  • “However, sunburn was also prevalent among black (13.2%) and Hispanic (29.7%) individuals, demographic groups that are often considered to be at low risk of skin cancer.”
  • “The most frequent sun protection behaviors were staying in the shade (37.1%) and using sunscreen (31.5%) followed by wearing long clothing to the ankles (28.4%).”
  • “Sun avoidance behaviors (seeking shade and not going in the sun) were significantly (39.5% vs 35.1%) associated with a lower prevalence of sunburn.”
  • “Those who used self-applied sunless tanning products (45.0% of users vs 36.1% of nonusers), those who engaged in aerobic activity (37.9% of aerobic exercisers vs 32.8% of non-aerobic exercisers), binge drinkers (45.1% of binge drinkers vs 35.0% of non-binge drinkers), and overweight or obese individuals (37.9% of overweight or obese individuals vs 34.4% of non-overweight or obese individuals) were more likely to experience sunburn compared with the respective comparison groups.”

The researchers conclusions provide potentially important insights for workplace wellness programs:

  • “Sun sensitivity was significantly associated with a higher sunburn prevalence, independent of race/ethnicity, suggesting a need to consider sun sensitivity when identifying target demographic groups for sun safety interventions.”
  • “Efforts to improve vigilance and consistency with use of sun protection are needed. In addition, those who engage in physical activity, use sunless tanners, or use sunscreen for tanning purposes may require additional intervention strategies to address the unique barriers they face in staying adequately protected.”