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Monitoring Risk & Health Behaviors

Sun Exposure and Indoor Tanning

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is known to be the leading cause of skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Likewise, it has become evident that exposure to artificial UV light such as from indoor tanning beds, sunbeds, and sun lamps also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some groups are more susceptible to the sun's and/or artificial sources' damaging rays than others, depending on their skin type and where they live. Consequently, it is important to monitor the population's sun exposure, use of indoor tanning equipment, and their behaviors for avoiding those exposures.

As some of the effects of UV exposure are cumulative and childhood and adolescent exposures are especially sensitive periods, lifetime exposure is an important aspect, as are periods of acute intermittent exposure.

The Risk Factor Monitoring & Methods Branch monitors behaviors related to sun exposure and indoor tanning by adding questions to existing surveys, such as the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Supplement, California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (ADD HEALTH)External Web Site Policy. In addition, RFMMB consults on questions added to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). Questions in these surveys ask about skin type, number of sunburns, and behaviors to protect against sun exposure.

Beginning in 2005, we have added questions to the NHIS Cancer Control Supplement on indoor tanning use.

All of these behaviors are mentioned in the Healthy People 2020 objective related to sun protection.

This section is being updated with current information on sun protection and indoor tanning habits of adults and teens from the most recent 2010 national survey data (2010 NHIS-CCS). Meanwhile, please see the Sun Protection Chapter in the Cancer Prevention Section of the Cancer Trends Progress Report 2011/2012 Update.

Last Modified: 16 May 2014