Sun-Protective Behavior

Last Updated:

On This Page:

In 2015, 70.8% of adults said they usually or always protect themselves from the sun by practicing at least one of three sun protection behaviors.

Summary graph for Sun-Protective Behavior, Click to see detailed view of graph

See Graph Details

Introduction

Avoiding sunburns and intermittent high-intensity sun exposure (especially in children, teens, and young adults) reduces the chances of getting melanoma skin cancer. Engaging in sun protective behaviors when outside can reduce one’s exposure to UV radiation and sunburn. For example, broad spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB) should be used and applied appropriately (e.g., proper amount applied, sunscreens should be applied prior to exposure, and sunscreen should be reapplied for prolonged UV exposure). In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration has improved standards for sunscreen content and labeling. Seeking shade can also reduce the risk of sunburn and one of the goals of the Surgeon General’s Call To Action to Prevent Skin Cancer is to increase the availability of shade in outdoor recreation, education, and workplace environments.

Addition behaviors such as wearing sunglasses and sun protective clothing (e.g., long sleeve shirt, long pants, and wide brim hat) can help prevent excessive exposure to UV. Sun protective behaviors are most needed when UV intensity is greatest, which occurs during the summer time and between 10 am and 4 pm. However, for some regions of the US, such as the southeast and southwest, UV intensity is high year round. To help maximize one’s protection, multiple sun protective behaviors should be practiced.

Measure

The percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who reported that they usually or always practice at least one of three sun-protective behaviors - using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing (a long-sleeve shirt, and/or wide brimmed hat shading the face, ears, and neck, and/or long pants/long skirt), or seeking shade when going outside on a sunny day for more than an hour.

Beginning in 2005, the question on hat use (as part of protective clothing) was modified to more accurately distinguish baseball caps (which do not fully protect the face, neck, and ears) from other types of fully protective hats. Graphic illustrations of different hats were used, and respondents were asked a separate question about baseball cap and sun visor use.  Also, long pants/long skirt was an item added in 2005.

In certain sections of this report, the protective clothing and sunscreen measures were defined according to the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) objectives with data available since 2005, allowing for only short-term trends. HP2020 defines use of protective clothing as wearing one or more of the following -- a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, ears, and neck,  long sleeves, and long pants or long skirt. HP2020 guidelines for sunscreen use refer to sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

Healthy People 2020 Target

  • Increase to 11.2 percent the proportion of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who follow protective measures that may reduce the risk of skin cancer.
  • Increase to 73.7 percent the proportion of adults aged 18 years and older who follow protective measures that may reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey NCI and CDC co-sponsored Cancer Control Supplement, 1992-2010, 2005–2015.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

Sun Protection Methods

Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by type of protective measure, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by type of protective measure, 2005-2015 TotalClick to see the detailed trend graph for Total 70.8 (69.9 - 71.6)
Sunscreen (SPF 15+)Click to see the detailed trend graph for Sunscreen (SPF 15+) 33.7 (32.8 - 34.5)
Protective clothingClick to see the detailed trend graph for Protective clothing 38.4 (37.6 - 39.2)
Seek ShadeClick to see the detailed trend graph for Seek Shade 39.1 (38.3 - 40.0)

Use Some Type of Protection

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by sex, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by sex, 2005-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 70.8 (69.9 - 71.6)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 66.7 (65.6 - 67.8)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 74.8 (73.8 - 75.7)
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by race/ethnicity, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by race/ethnicity, 2005-2015 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 70.8 (69.9 - 71.6)
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 69.6 (68.6 - 70.7)
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 67.7 (65.5 - 69.9)
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 75.7 (74.0 - 77.3)
By Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by age, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by age, 2005-2015 Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-24 60.6 (57.8 - 63.5)
Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 25+ 72.3 (71.4 - 73.1)
By Sex and Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by sex and age, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by sex and age, 2005-2015 Males, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 18-24 55.4 (51.6 - 59.2)
Males, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 25+ 68.3 (67.2 - 69.5)
Females, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 18-24 66.2 (62.6 - 69.7)
Females, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 25+ 76.0 (75.1 - 77.0)
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by poverty income level, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by poverty income level, 2005-2015 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 71.5 (70.3 - 72.7)
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 70.5 (69.4 - 71.5)
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2005-2015 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 73.6 (71.6 - 75.6)
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 69.3 (67.8 - 70.9)
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 72.9 (71.9 - 73.9)

Use Sunscreen

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by sex, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by sex, 2000-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 33.7 (32.8 - 34.5)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 23.4 (22.4 - 24.4)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 43.6 (42.4 - 44.8)
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by race/ethnicity, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by race/ethnicity, 2000-2015 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 33.7 (32.8 - 34.5)
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 40.4 (39.3 - 41.5)
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 10.9 (9.7 - 12.2)
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 24.7 (23.1 - 26.3)
By Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by age, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by age, 2000-2015 Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-24 25.9 (23.1 - 28.7)
Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 25+ 34.8 (33.9 - 35.7)
By Sex and Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by sex and age, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by sex and age, 2000-2015 Males, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 18-24 17.0 (13.8 - 20.1)
Males, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 25+ 24.3 (23.2 - 25.5)
Females, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 18-24 35.3 (31.3 - 39.2)
Females, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 25+ 44.8 (43.6 - 46.0)
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by poverty income level, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by using SPF 15 or higher sunscreen by poverty income level, 2000-2015 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 21.4 (20.3 - 22.6)
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 38.7 (37.6 - 39.7)
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2000-2015 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 16.0 (14.2 - 17.9)
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 24.9 (23.3 - 26.5)
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 41.8 (40.7 - 42.9)

Wear Protective Clothing

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by sex, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by sex, 2005-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 38.4 (37.6 - 39.2)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 43.6 (42.4 - 44.8)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 33.4 (32.4 - 34.4)
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by race/ethnicity, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by race/ethnicity, 2005-2015 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 38.4 (37.6 - 39.2)
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 34.7 (33.6 - 35.7)
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 39.6 (37.4 - 41.7)
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 49.0 (47.2 - 50.9)
By Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by age, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by age, 2005-2015 Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-24 27.1 (24.5 - 29.6)
Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 25+ 40.1 (39.2 - 41.0)
By Sex and Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by sex and age, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by sex and age, 2005-2015 Males, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 18-24 31.8 (28.0 - 35.6)
Males, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 25+ 45.3 (44.0 - 46.6)
Females, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 18-24 22.1 (18.9 - 25.3)
Females, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 25+ 35.0 (34.0 - 36.1)
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by poverty income level, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by wearing protective clothing by poverty income level, 2005-2015 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 43.4 (42.0 - 44.8)
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 36.2 (35.2 - 37.2)
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2005-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 2005-2015 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 51.7 (49.3 - 54.1)
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 40.8 (39.1 - 42.5)
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 37.7 (36.6 - 38.8)

Seek Shade

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by sex, 1992-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by sex, 1992-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 39.1 (38.3 - 40.0)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 31.9 (30.8 - 33.1)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 46.0 (45.0 - 47.1)
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by race/ethnicity, 1992-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by race/ethnicity, 1992-2015 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 39.1 (38.3 - 40.0)
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 34.1 (33.1 - 35.1)
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 48.7 (46.5 - 50.9)
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 49.1 (47.2 - 50.9)
By Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by age, 1992-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by age, 1992-2015 Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-24 32.0 (29.5 - 34.5)
Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 25+ 40.2 (39.3 - 41.1)
By Sex and Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by sex and age, 1992-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by sex and age, 1992-2015 Males, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 18-24 25.5 (22.3 - 28.7)
Males, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 25+ 32.9 (31.6 - 34.2)
Females, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 18-24 38.8 (35.2 - 42.3)
Females, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 25+ 47.1 (46.1 - 48.1)
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by poverty income level, 1998-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade by poverty income level, 1998-2015 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 45.6 (44.3 - 47.0)
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 36.3 (35.3 - 37.4)
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 1992-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who usually or always protect themselves from the sun by highest level of education obtained, 1992-2015 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 46.0 (43.6 - 48.4)
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 39.9 (38.0 - 41.7)
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 39.0 (37.9 - 40.1)

Additional Information on UV Exposure and Sun Protective Practices

For the public

For health professionals

Scientific reports

Statistics

Year Range

2005-2015

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2010-2015

Summary Tables

Sun Protection

Recent Summary Trend

Stable

Desired Direction

Rising