Who’s Most Concerned About Sun Safety?

As summer approaches and states begin to ease COVID-19 social distancing orders, it’s more tempting than ever to get outside – and too easy to forget about protecting your skin from the sun. But foregoing sunscreen just once can cause sun damage such as brown spots, wrinkles, and sunburns that often lead to cosmetic procedures. More importantly, sun damage can result in serious medical concerns like skin cancer.

Do people take these concerns seriously? We surveyed 2,015 Americans to find out. A shocking 40 percent say they rarely or never wear sunscreen, and that more than 70 percent only wear it in the summer. Even then, a majority of respondents (77%) say reserve sunscreen for certain activities on sunny days.

Less than one in four (23%) say they wear sunscreen most or all of the time. That’s a concerning statistic, given that 76 percent of respondents don’t know the ABCDE rule of skin cancer and more than half have never been checked by a professional for signs of it.

Sunscreen Usage in 2020

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America – and yet just 34 percent of respondents say they worry about getting it.

This made us wonder, where in America are residents most concerned? By measuring Google search trends at a state level and comparing search rates to local levels of risk and occurrence, we’ve been able to determine where in the country people are most and least actively concerned about skin cancer.

Just nine states are extremely concerned about getting skin cancer, including ones you might expect such as Florida and Hawaii. Others that are extremely concerned? New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and Missouri, whose skin cancer rates are low, but search rates are high.

A staggering 24 states remain not concerned enough about skin cancer, including Vermont, Idaho, Delaware, and Montana, all of whom have high rates of skin cancer but average or low search rates.

Sunscreen Usage in 2020

Between March 27 and March 28, 2020, we surveyed 2,015 people about their relationship with sunscreen. The average age of respondents was 38; 57% were female, 43% were male. A majority of respondents identified as Caucasian (72%), followed by African American (9%), Asian (9%), Latino or Hispanic (5%), and other (2%).

We then conducted an analysis of Google search trends in order to analyze awareness of and interest in skin cancer. We identified 12 search terms that indicate a level of interest and gathered search averages for the prior year, which we related to state populations to produce a metric representing relative levels of concern.

Finally, we compared levels of concern to the latest skin cancer data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates the skin cancer rate per 100,000 people in each state. By comparing levels of risk to levels of concern, we identified where each state falls along a spectrum of concern.

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