Sunburn

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In 2015, 35.3% of adults aged 18 years and older were sunburned in the past year.

Summary graph for Sunburn, Click to see detailed view of graph

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Introduction

Sunburn, also known as erythema, is caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which results in an acute cutaneous inflammatory response. Sunburn results from over exposure to UVR and can occur from use of indoor tanning beds or over exposure to outdoor sunlight. Sunburn symptoms include redness, warmth, tenderness, or edema, and may cause pain or blistering. Annually, over 33,000 sunburns are reported that require emergency room visits and may occur among people of all racial/ethnic groups. Previous sun burning, particularly experienced at younger ages, is a strong predictor of future skin cancer and especially melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. People with sun sensitive skin are more likely to incur sunburn and are at greater risk for skin cancer, especially melanoma, than those with relatively less sun sensitivity. Sun sensitivity reflects a person’s characteristic skin response (e.g., a burn, a burn and then tan, etc.) after prolonged sun exposure or after a long period or season of being relatively unexposed. Though related to sun sensitivity, skin color and ethnicity are not adequate proxies for sun sensitivity because they are not accurate biological descriptors of at risk populations.   

Measure

The percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who reported having been sunburned in the past 12 months.

The percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who reported having been sunburned in the past 12 months.

Healthy People 2020 Target

  • (Developmental) Reduce the proportion of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who report sunburn.
  • Reduce to 33.8 percent the proportion of adults aged 18 years and older who report at least one sunburn in the past 12 months.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Note: Goals are indicated as blue line on Detailed Trend Graphs.

Data Source

Adolescents: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2015-2017.

Adults: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey NCI and CDC co-sponsored Cancer Control Supplement, 2000-2010, 2010-2015.

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

Adolescents

By Sex
Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by sex, 2015-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of adolescents 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by sex, 2015-2017 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 57.2 54.1 - 60.3
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 52.8 49.4 - 56.0
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 61.6 58.4 - 64.7
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by race/ethnicity, 2015-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of adolescents 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by race/ethnicity, 2015-2017 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 57.2 54.1 - 60.3
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 74.8 73.0 - 76.6
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 13.0 10.4 - 16.1
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 45.1 42.4 - 47.8
By High School Grade
Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by grade level, 2015-2017
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2017)
Percent of adolescents 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of high school students (grades 9-12) who were sunburned in the past year by grade level, 2015-2017 Grade 9Click to see the detailed trend graph for Grade 9 57.7 53.9 - 61.4
Grade 10Click to see the detailed trend graph for Grade 10 57.2 53.1 - 61.2
Grade 11Click to see the detailed trend graph for Grade 11 55.6 51.5 - 59.7
Grade 12Click to see the detailed trend graph for Grade 12 58.7 54.5 - 62.9

Adults

By Sex
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sex, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sex, 2000-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 35.3 34.4 - 36.2
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 35.5 34.2 - 36.7
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 35.2 34.1 - 36.3
By Race/Ethnicity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by race/ethnicity, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by race/ethnicity, 2000-2015 All RacesClick to see the detailed trend graph for All Races 35.3 34.4 - 36.2
Non-Hispanic WhiteClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic White 46.3 45.1 - 47.5
Non-Hispanic BlackClick to see the detailed trend graph for Non-Hispanic Black 9.9 8.8 - 11.1
HispanicClick to see the detailed trend graph for Hispanic 22.4 20.9 - 24.0
By Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by age, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by age, 2000-2015 Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-24 46.0 43.1 - 48.9
Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 25+ 33.7 32.8 - 34.6
By Sex and Age
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sex and age, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sex and age, 2000-2015 Males, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 18-24 43.6 39.8 - 47.4
Males, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Males, Ages 25+ 34.3 33.0 - 35.5
Females, Ages 18-24Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 18-24 48.4 44.2 - 52.7
Females, Ages 25+Click to see the detailed trend graph for Females, Ages 25+ 33.2 32.2 - 34.3
By Poverty Income Level
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by poverty income level, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by poverty income level, 2000-2015 <200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for <200% of federal poverty level 26.7 25.4 - 28.1
>=200% of federal poverty levelClick to see the detailed trend graph for >=200% of federal poverty level 39.2 38.2 - 40.3
By Education Level
Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by highest level of education obtained, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 25 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by highest level of education obtained, 2000-2015 Less than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Less than High School 19.7 18.0 - 21.5
High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for High School 30.8 29.1 - 32.5
Greater than High SchoolClick to see the detailed trend graph for Greater than High School 37.2 36.3 - 38.2
By Sun Sensitivity
Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sun sensitivity, 2000-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of adults 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were sunburned in the past year by sun sensitivity, 2000-2015 Sun-SensitiveClick to see the detailed trend graph for Sun-Sensitive 51.7 50.6 - 52.8
Not Sun-SensitiveClick to see the detailed trend graph for Not Sun-Sensitive 17.7 16.7 - 18.7
Sun sensitivity reflects a person's characteristic skin response (e.g., a burn, a burn and then tan, etc.) after prolonged sun exposure or after a long period or season of being relatively unexposed. Though related to sun sensitivity, skin color and ethnicity are not adequate proxies for sun sensitivity.

Evidence-based Resources

Resources are available on sun-protective behaviors that are effective at lowering risk of skin cancer. Visit the sun safety on Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T. web portal. Multicomponent community-wide interventions are recommended to prevent skin cancer as well as education and policy approaches.  

Additional Information on Sunburn

For the public

For health professionals

Scientific reports

Statistics

Year Range

2000-2015

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2010-2015

Summary Tables

Sun Protection

Recent Summary Trend

Falling

Desired Direction

Falling