Despite efforts to inform people about health risks linked to overexposure to the sun and the proven effectiveness of sunscreens to prevent skin damages, skin cancer is on the rise in the US. Over the past decade (2011 - 2021), the annual rate of newly-diagnosed melanoma cases increased by 44% and it is expected that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, said The Derm Review, a comprehensive online resource on skin care products and cosmetic ingredients.

To get a better idea of why this might be, The Derm Review surveyed 1000 Americans to see how many people follow the doctors’ orders and wear sunscreen on a regular basis.

Actually, the survey found that a whopping 56% of participants rarely or never use sunscreen. Indeed, 35% of respondents said they never use sunscreen, while 21% say they wear it once or twice a year or less. Only 19% wear it on a daily basis.

According to The Derm Review, this low use might partly explain why skin cancer has increased 300% over the past two decades. “Skin cancer in Americans is five times higher than breast and prostate cancer, and ultraviolet radiation is responsible for 86% of melanoma cases,” explains the publication.

Indeed, the link between UV exposure and skin cancer is well-documented; unprotected sun exposure is associated with 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65% of melanoma skin cancers (one of the deadliest types of skin cancer).

Sunscreen and gender

In addition, the survey revealed that women tend to wear sunscreen more regularly than men with 26% of women saying they wear it on a daily basis, compared to just 11% of men. Out of the respondents who say they never or rarely wear sunscreen, 62% were men and 50% were women. The same gap between men’s and women’s behaviour was recently found in France.

Interestingly, these stats mirror the results for new-diagnosed skin cancer cases, which are higher for men than women. Men account for 6% of new melanoma cases compared to 5% for women.

Sunscreen usage by region

Geographically, people from the West wear sunscreen the least with 47% reporting they never use it. The South came in second place at 41% reporting they never use sunscreen. Ironically, these are typically the states who would spend the most time in the sun.

About 38% of Northeasterners and 39% of Midwesterners report never using sunscreen. Of those surveyed, Alaska and Hawaii saw the largest number of sunscreen users.

Considering people who reported never wearing sunscreen, wearing it less than once a year, or less than twice a year, States where sunscreen use is at the lowest are Rhode Island and Kansas, while Alaska and Hawaii are those with the highest rate of sunscreen users.