Lather Up That Sunscreen, Athletes!

Skin cancer prevention with sunscreen is not used often enough by student athletes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Applying sunscreen before morning and afternoon training sessions every day may take too much time for busy student-athletes. But skin cancer doesn’t care about spare time.

A recent study asked 290 student-athletes about their sun exposure and sunscreen use. This study’s findings showed that most individuals knew skin cancer was a risk, but less than half used sunscreen properly.

The lead researcher said, “Ultraviolet radiation is a known risk factor for skin cancer...Athletes are at high risk with frequent sun exposure during peak hours of ultraviolet radiation.”

"Always use sunscreen."

Ashley Wysong, MD, from the Department of Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, led researchers to investigate student athletes’ sunscreen use and sun exposure.

For the study, 290 college athletes from Duke and Stanford Universities were observed and surveyed for 14 months.

Researchers were able to determine the athletes trained outside for approximately four hours per day for 10 months per year.

A total of 96 percent of the athletes admitted to knowing sunscreen helps to prevent skin cancer, but less than 50 percent used sunscreen on a regular basis.

Only 75 percent of the athletes used sunscreen 1-3 days per week.

Researchers found sunscreen promotion and education by a team coach or athletic administrator did increase sunscreen use.

Athletes that were more likely to use sunscreen had these things in common:

  • Female sex
  • Had experienced severe sunburns the previous training season
  • Believed skin cancer risks were associated with sun exposure
  • Knew someone with skin cancer
  • Wanted to prevent skin wrinkles
  • Wanted to prevent sunburns
  • Wanted to prevent skin cancer

Authors concluded, “Continued identification of characteristics and barriers to sunscreen use can lead to targeted interventions and education in this high-risk group of collegiate athletes with early and elevated total lifetime ultraviolet exposure.”

Educating coaches and athletes on the risks of skin cancer and making sunscreen available may be a simple, cost-effective way to increase sunscreen use.

This study was published in November in Preventive Medicine. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 14, 2012
Last Updated:
May 16, 2013