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Survey Reveals Knowledge of Sun’s Dangers but Limited Sunscreen Use

— May 29, 2024

More than 80% of Americans know direct exposure to the sun can be harmful, yet only a small percentage regularly protect their skin.

A new Yahoo News/YouGov survey, conducted from May 10 to 13, revealed that 80% of the 1,794 participants believe protecting their skin from the sun’s potentially dangerous rays is “important,” yet they’re still skimping on sunscreen use.

Dr. Vicky Zhen Ren, assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, said of the poll results, “I’m surprised that almost 1 out of 5 people think it’s not important to protect their skin from the sun. Even if people choose not to use sunscreen, I would’ve thought everyone would know it’s ‘right’ to exercise sun protection – analogous to how we all know a healthy diet and regular exercise are important, even if we don’t all adhere to a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise.”

The sample also revealed that 33% of adults never use sunscreen, with more men reporting they don’t than women (42% compared to 25%). Only 12% of adults use sunscreen every day, with more women making sun protection part of their daily routine than men (18% compared to 6%). A similar 20215 study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, showed similar results. The team reported approximately 30% of women and less than 15% of men regularly use sunscreen exposed skin while in the sun.

The recent poll also found about 30 percent of women and less than 15 percent of men regularly use sunscreen on both the face and other exposed areas of skin, the survey suggested.

Choosing not to apply a protective layer and exposing delicate skin to the sun’s heat can have serious consequences. Dr. Julia Tzu, founder and director of Wall Street Dermatology, explained, “UV [ultraviolet] radiation from the sun is harmful to the skin and can cause premature aging as well as skin cancer. When applied properly, sunscreen reduces the amount of UV radiation that we receive from the sun.”

Survey Reveals Knowledge of Sun's Dangers but Limited Sunscreen Use
Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

UV radiation is a leading cause of skin damage, including premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer. This form of cancer is actually fairly common, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, but as Ren points out, “It is one of the most preventable cancers.” She added that sunscreen along with protective clothing, such as broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants, “play a huge role in preventing skin cancer. UV exposure – whether intermittent or chronic, low or high intensity, via tanning beds or sunlight – increases the risk of skin cancer and pre-cancers, as well as premature aging.”

Hyperpigmentation and other skin blemishes, including age spots, wrinkles, and fine lines can result as the sun’s rays eventually lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, responsible for skin’s firmness and elasticity. When skin cancer, or melanoma, is present on someone who has moles, it is often detected by looking closely at any changes in these. It’s important to schedule regular dermatologist appointments to ensure early detection.

Perhaps the biggest question is: Why do most people choose not to apply sunscreen even though they’re aware it’s important to protect themselves from the sun’s rays?

“Many people recognize that health is important, but most may not take the precautions or effort to make sure they are achieving healthy habits,” explained Tzu. “For example, most people know that eating processed foods is unhealthy, but they continue to eat it, because there is no immediate danger, and it is convenient. Same thing with sunscreen and sun protection.”

Busy schedules, a long list of to-dos, and living in today’s world of constant distractions are also likely to blame. Even those who are well-intended may find it difficult to remember to take a few extra minutes to lather up.

For this reason, Tzu and Ren suggest keeping sunblock in easily accessible places, such as on a bathroom counter, by the door to grab on the way outside, or in the family vehicle. Ren said it’s best to ensure the bottle is easily visible, “so you are visually reminded to use it daily,” and suggests sharing intentions to apply it more frequently with friends and family, “so that they can remind you and keep you accountable. This may also inspire them to use sunscreen regularly as well.”

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using SPF 30 or higher, with survey results revealing 25% of respondents opt for SPF 50 and 23% use SPF 30. Only 6% said they commonly choose SPF 15 and 3% purchase SPF 100. Reaching for a higher level of protection will create the most optimal shield against dangerous rays.


More than 30% of U.S. adults never use sunscreen, new Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds (

American Cancer Society: Skin Cancer

Most American Adults Do Not Use Sunscreen Regularly

American Academy of Dermatology: Sunscreen FAQs

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