Survey Shows Gap in Sun Knowledge, Behavior

Results released from a national survey of dermatologists and consumers unveiled that there is a major gap between what dermatologists recommend and what Americans actually do when it comes to sun-safe behavior. This gap further highlights the need for continued education to reverse the skin cancer epidemic in the United States. As a result, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) and Neutrogena have partnered on Choose Skin Health, a multi-faceted, national education campaign, to offer free skin cancer screenings across the ountry and educate people on how to take charge of their skin health by adopting sun-safe behaviors 365 days a year.

While one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime (1), the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that only one in five people (20%) wear sunscreen on a daily basis, even though 94% of Americans know that prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin damage and even skin cancer.

“Ultimately, these survey results show that people aren’t taking sun safety as seriously as they should. We should be limiting our exposure to direct sun rays and putting on sunscreen in the morning should be as automatic as putting a seatbelt on when you get into a car,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dover, MD, FRCPC, president of ASDS. “The other key component is skin screening. We are proud that our members are providing free skin cancer screenings across the country, and we encourage people to download the Skin Cancer Self Examination Kit on the campaign Web site,”

Another surprising survey finding was that while many Americans are taking steps that will likely help maintain or improve their body as a whole, such as drinking lots of water (68%) and eating a balanced diet (50%), far fewer are using sunscreen to maintain or improve their skin health, especially when compared to what dermatologists believe people should do for their skin.

“Skin cancer is the most common type of malignancy in this country and according to a recent study published in the Archives of Dermatology, it has reached epidemic proportions,” said Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, MD, MS, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center, adjunct professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and member of the Choose Skin Health Advisory Board. “It is so important for people to be aware of this threat, because it is a type of cancer that is preventable. For those who may be worried because they spent years as sun worshipers, they should know that skin cancer is 99% curable when detected early.”

Jennifer Garner, actress and Neutrogena brand ambassador, also knows the importance of sun safety, stating, “Now in its third year, I am proud to be a part of the Choose Skin Health education campaign. Sun safety is important and I encourage you to visit to learn how you can best protect your skin and find a free skin cancer screening in your area.”

As part of its ongoing education efforts, the Choose Skin Health campaign has also launched a Facebook fan page where members can receive tips on sun-safe behavior and find information about ongoing initiatives. The Choose Skin Health Advisory Board played a key role in shaping this year’s campaign and is comprised of nationally-recognized dermatologists:

  • Roger Ceilley, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, University of Iowa
  • Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine (dermatology), chief, pediatric and adolescent dermatology, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego
  • Darrell Rigel, MD, MS, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center and adjunct professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center
  • Susan Weinkle, MD, fellow of the American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology, vice president of ASDS and diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology

Dermatologist survey methodology

This sunscreen study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Neutrogena between February 25–March 2, 2010 among 256 U.S. dermatologists. All survey respondents were identified via the American Medical Association (AMA) masterfile. Figures for sex, years in practice and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

Consumer survey methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Neutrogena from March 26-30, 2010 among 2,222 adults ages 18 and older. Results were weighted as needed to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

1. ASDS Web site. Last accessed March 26, 2010.

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