Survey: Misunderstanding Sun Protection is a Common Problem


An American Academy of Dermatology survey found that more Americans say sun protection is more important than 5 years ago, but don’t understand how to protect themselves.

In a survey of more than 1000 Americans, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has found that although Americans believe that sun protection is important, many lack the knowledge to properly protect themselves.1

Other results include, 62% of responders rating themselves an overall grade of excellent or good for sun protection in 2021, but 63% reported getting a tan, which is an increase of 9% from 2020. About 30% of survey takers reported getting a sunburn, which is an increase from 25% in 2020.

“If you are getting a tan, you are definitely not doing a good job of protecting yourself from the sun,” said board-certified dermatologist Mark D. Kaufmann MD, FAAD, president of the AAD, in the release. “There is no such thing as a safe tan. Every time you tan or burn, you are also damaging the DNA in your skin. The more you damage your DNA, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer.”

Other misconceptions the survey found were:

  • Responders believing that SPF 30 is twice as protective as SPF 15 (67%)
  • Often forgetting to reapply sunscreen (65%)
  • Unaware that shade protects a person from UV rays (43%)

Patients understanding the difference between SPF numbers and what the measures mean is an essential part of sun protection. The AAD recommends that everyone, in order to reduce the risk of skin cancer, should seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing, and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

“It’s great that 82% of respondents say protecting their skin from the sun is more important to them now than it was five years ago,” said Kaufmann in the release. “However, it’s important that people use sun protection now so they can prevent premature skin aging and reduce their risk of skin cancer before they start seeing the damaging effects of the sun on their skin.”

As a way to help educated the public, the AAD will be starting its SPOT Skin Cancer campaign on May 2nd, Melanoma Monday, as May is melanoma awareness month. The Academy has also awarded 20 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, according to the release. Since the start of the Shade Structure Grant program in 1999, the Academy has awarded 480 shade structure grants that protect an estimated 3.6 million people from overexposure to the sun each day. The AAD also has a youth education program called the Good Skin Knowledge, that teaches common skin, hair, and nail conditions to children and adolescence.

“As we head into summer, it’s important that the public practices safe sun to reduce their risk of skin cancer,” Kaufmann concluded. “If you have any questions about how to protect yourself from the sun or notice new or suspicious spots on your skin or any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

This article originally appeared on Dermatology Times.


  1. New American Academy of Dermatology survey reveals most Americans say sun protection is more important now than five years ago, yet many misunderstand how to protect themselves. April 26, 2022. Accessed April 28, 2022.
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