Study Shows More Education Needed on Sunscreen Use: Dermatologist Joshua Fox says consumers missing the mark on skin cancer prevention

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Thu Feb 4, 2.00 am ET

Joshua Fox, M.D., medical director at Advanced Dermatology and founder of the New Age Skin Research Foundation, a non-profit health organization, conducted a study on 2,252 respondents. It consisted of a 24-question survey to assess the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards sun exposure, tanning and sunscreen usage.

New Hyde Park, NY (PRWEB) February 4, 2010 — The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. With more than one million cases diagnosed annually, the incidences of skin cancers out number the combined incidences of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer in the United States.

Doctors Joshua Fox, MD and Rao Saladi, MD, of the New Age Skin Research Foundation, a non-profit health organization aiming to provide expert educational resources to the public and physicians, concluded that the most recent research on attitudes about sun protection and the behavior related to the proper use of sunscreen was unfortunately from studies focused primarily in Australia.

In order to gain an understanding of local points of view, the doctors conducted their own study and presented their findings in March of 2009, at the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) 67th Annual Meeting, held in San Francisco, California. These same findings were published in the March 2009 issue of The American Academy of Dermatology.

The study was conducted throughout Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and included 2,252 respondents. The study consisted of a 24-question survey. The survey was designed to assess the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards sun exposure, tanning and sunscreen usage. Demographic data on each subject’s age, sex, race, education and skin type were also collected. Surveys were conducted throughout the Tri-State area in four types of locations: public beaches (34.6% of respondents), public areas such as malls and parks (33.3% of respondents), at colleges (24.6% of respondents), and in dermatology offices (7.5% of respondents).

Dr. Fox and Dr. Saladi concluded that, “While many individuals are admittedly aware of the value of sunscreen as protection against the dangers of skin damage and skin cancer, they lack knowledge about the proper use of sunscreen.”

“One surprising finding”, said Dr. Fox, “was that while respondents in the beachgoer category had the highest instance of sunscreen usage, 42% using it regularly; the same group was among the highest percentage to use tanning salons.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure. And, research indicates that people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop Squamous Cell Carcinoma which kills about 2.5 billion people each year, and are 1.5 times more likely to develop Basal Cell Carcinoma. Doctors Fox and Saladi discovered that, regardless of the survey category, between 10% and 15% of respondents used tanning beds.

Other results from the survey showed that respondents from the public area category were split almost equally into thirds; one third used sunscreen regularly, one third used it occasionally, and one third reported non-use. Of the college campus respondents 38.9% of respondents reported almost daily use, while 39.23% said they never used sunscreen.

The dermatology office category respondents reported the highest daily usage of sunscreen at 56.90 percent. “We believe that it is because this group of respondents is likely to have had some experience with or concern about skin damage or cancer,” said Dr. Fox.

Dr. Saladi added, “it is also likely that as a result of their dermatology visits, this group would have had the highest degree of education and reinforcement regarding the proper use of sunscreen from their dermatologist and staff. Dr. Fox and I both believe that improving education and reinforcement can increase awareness and improve behavior, regardless of the geographic area.”

Education on the proper use of sunscreen should include how to select the right products, the proper application and reapplication of sunscreen, and the frequency and amount of its use.