Sunburns are becoming more common among U.S. adults, and
with the summer season starting, it's time to brush up on sun protection, says
The CDC today spotlighted America's sunburn statistics -- and what to do to
The percentage of sunburned U.S. adults rose from 31.8% in 1999 to 33.7% in
2004, based on three national surveys conducted in 1999, 2003, and 2004.
In those surveys, sunburns were rarest in Arizona adults in 1999 and most
common in Utah in 2004. (A state-by-state list of results from the 2004 survey
appears later in this article.)
As expected, sunburns were most common among whites and least common among
blacks. Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/native
Alaskans also reported sunburns, though they often aren't considered at high
Sunburns aren't just uncomfortable. Getting sunburned even once can make you
more likely to get skin cancer, according to the CDC, which offers these
sunburn prevention tips:
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Cover up while in the sun.
- Seek the shade.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses.
- Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
The three surveys covered various health topics, including sunburns.
The 1999 survey included more than 153,000 adults. The 2003 survey included
nearly 253,000 adults. The 2004 survey included more than 295,000 adults.
In telephone interviews, participants reported how many times they had
gotten sunburned -- even on a small part of their skin -- during the previous
In all three surveys, roughly one in three adults said they'd been sunburned
in the previous year.
Those who sunburned tended to burn several times. Two-thirds of adults
reporting sunburns said they'd gotten sunburned more than once in the previous
Sunburns were more common among men than among women. That may be due to
time spent outdoors or greater sun protection among women, notes the CDC.
Sunburns, State by State
The CDC lists the percentage of white adults in each state and U.S.
territory who reported getting sunburned at least once in the previous
Here is that list for 2004, the most recent year for which state statistics
are available. States with the same percentage are ranked together. Hawaii and
Guam didn't report sunburn statistics in the 2004 survey.
- U.S. Virgin Islands: 50.1%
- Utah: 49.9%
- Minnesota: 48.7%
- Wisconsin: 48.6%
- Idaho: 48.5%
- Wyoming: 48.3%
- Vermont: 47.1%
- Nebraska: 46.9%
- North Dakota: 46.4%
- South Dakota: 46.1%
- Michigan: 45.6%
- Missouri: 45.2%
- Colorado: 45.1%
- Montana: 44.1%
- Maryland: 43.9%
- New Hampshire: 43.8%
- Iowa, Oregon, and Washington: 43.6%
- Ohio: 43.4%
- Indiana: 43.3%
- Connecticut: 43.1%
- Arkansas and Virginia: 42.9%
- Pennsylvania: 42.7%
- Maine and Massachusetts: 42.6%
- Arizona: 42.1%
- Illinois: 41.7%
- South Carolina: 41.6%
- Oklahoma: 41.5%
- Delaware and Kansas: 41.4%
- New Mexico: 41.3%
- Mississippi: 40.5%
- New Jersey and New York: 40.2%
- Washington, D.C.: 40.1%
- Alabama: 39.6%
- Georgia: 39.2%
- Rhode Island: 38.7%
- Nevada: 38.3%
- West Virginia: 38%
- Florida and Texas: 37.7%
- California: 34.8%
- Alaska: 34.1%
- Tennessee: 32.6%
- ouisiana: 30.5%
- North Carolina: 28.1%
- Kentucky: 27%
- Puerto Rico: 14.2%
The data don't show whether those people got sunburned in their home state
or elsewhere, whether they got burned by the sun or in a tanning bed, or what
(if any) sun protection they were using at the time.
The results appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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