Today is Melanoma Monday® and the official launch of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®. To increase awareness about the risks of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology conducted a survey to pinpoint cities where people best heed dermatologists' advice on preventing and detecting skin cancer. The “Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?” online survey polled more than 7,000 adults nationwide to determine their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward tanning, sun protection and skin cancer detection. Twenty-six cities were ranked based on respondents’ answers to several questions in each category. “One common thread we found encouraging is that the majority of people polled expressed concern about skin cancer and had awareness of the importance of proper sun protection,” said dermatologist William D. James, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy. “However, we found that people’s behaviors did not always correlate with their concerns.”
While Hartford, Salt Lake City and Denver ranked No. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh fell to the bottom of the sun-smart spectrum with rankings of 24, 25 and 26. When results for these cities were compared to the average collective responses for all survey respondents, significant differences were observed in the top- and bottom-ranked cities. Hartford respondents excelled in their knowledge of sun protection and the risks associated with tanning, scoring above the average of adults overall. For example, only about 35 percent nationwide correctly answered the question that asked whether some types of ultraviolet (UV) rays are safe for your skin—42 percent of Hartford respondents knew that this statement was not true, that all forms of UV exposure, from natural sunlight and artificial light sources such as tanning beds are harmful. Similarly, residents of Salt Lake City, Denver and Hartford all scored better than the national average when they disagreed with the statement that they are not too concerned about skin cancer because it is easily detected and treated. Overall, 76 percent of respondents nationwide disagreed with this statement, while 85 percent of respondents from Salt Lake City disagreed. “While skin cancer can be successfully treated if detected early, the five-year survival rate for individuals with regional and distant stage melanomas are 65 percent and 16 percent, respectively. That’s why people must be vigilant about protecting their skin from sun exposure and aware of the early warning signs of skin cancer,” said Dr. James. Unfortunately, when examining skin cancer detection behaviors, nationally 59 percent of respondents had never been screened for skin cancer by a healthcare provider. Respondents from Pittsburgh and Chicago fared even worse, with 69 percent of Pittsburgh respondents and 67 percent from Chicago admitting they had never had an examination. On the other hand, 48 percent of Hartford residents had never undergone a skin examination.
“We’re hoping the results of this survey will draw attention to the public’s need to change its attitudes toward tanning, which is the first step in changing behavior,” said Dr. James. “Our data show that most people are concerned about skin cancer, but they still need to modify their attitudes, behavior and knowledge to reduce their risk.” To minimize your risk of skin cancer, the Academy recommends that everyone “Be Sun Smart®”: