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Study Singles Out Beachgoers' Skin Cancer Risk
Date:11/17/2008

The most vulnerable use the least sunscreen, have greatest desire to tan

MONDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- That basic rule, "know thyself," can help prevent a pleasant seaside vacation from turning into a skin cancer risk, Australian dermatologists report.

A detailed study of 88 Hawaii vacationers identified three groups of people with distinct characteristics and sun protection behaviors, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology by researchers at the University of Queensland:

  • Those people in class 1 ("unconcerned and at low risk") were at least risk of skin cancer, intended to tan, and used the least amount of sun protection.
  • Those in class 2 ("tan seekers") had the second highest risk of skin cancer, had the highest proportion of women, became sunburned easily, intended to tan, had used tanning beds in past 30 days, and had the highest proportion of sunscreen coverage and the least clothing coverage.
  • Those in class 3 ("concerned and protected") had the highest skin cancer risk, the highest proportion of clothing coverage and shade use, and were more likely to be Hawaii residents.

"Specific strategies should target the subsets of the beach-going population (particularly those in group 2 -- the tan seekers) that intend to tan and sunburn repeatedly, taking into account their relevant personal attributes and behavior patterns," the researchers wrote.

A targeted message is needed for that group, said Dr. Susan Weinkle, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of South Florida and a member of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

"These vacationers are at high risk of skin cancer, and we are not getting the message across," Weinkle said. "People like me who live right on the beach use more sun-protective clothing and don't go to the beach with the primary goal of getting a tan. People who are on vacation ofte
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