WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
May 3, 2010 -- Not every city is created equal, at least when it comes to
the residents' awareness of skin cancer prevention.
That is according to the results of a new online poll, "Suntelligence: How
Sun Smart is Your City", a survey commissioned by the American Academy of
The poll examined more than 7,000 adults in 26 cities questioning them about
their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors about skin cancer detection, sun
protection, and tanning.
Findings showed that those living Hartford, Salt Lake City, and Denver are
the most knowledgeable about sun protection while residents of Cleveland,
Chicago, and Pittsburgh are the least knowledgeable.
"One common thread we found encouraging is the majority of people polled
expressed concern about skincancer and had awareness of the importance of
proper sun protection," William James, MD, a professor of dermatology at
the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Academy, says in a news
release. "However, we found that people's behaviors don't always correlate with
The survey was conducted between Jan. 12 and Jan. 31, 2010; 7,116 people
completed it. More than 200 participants took surveys in each of the 26 cities.
An additional 1,123 people completed surveys outside of the study cities, which
were used for the national comparison.
Residents of the highest- and lowest-ranked cities showed significant
differences in skin cancer knowledge and practices when compared to the average
collective responses for all surveys.
For example, 59% of respondents nationally had never received screening for
skin cancer from a health care provider. However, in the top-ranked city of
Hartford, 48% of residents had never undergone skin cancer checks. The two
lowest-ranked cities, Chicago (No. 25) and Pittsburgh (No. 26), fared worse.
Sixty-seven percent from Chicago and 69% from Pittsburgh admitted to never
having had such an examination.
In another finding, 85% of respondents from Salt Lake City, the
second-highest ranked city, disagreed with the statement that they are not too
concerned about skin cancer because it is easily detected and treated, while
76% of respondents nationwide rejected this statement.
Where the appeal of a tan was concerned, 72% of respondents nationally
believed that tanned skin looks good. In Pittsburgh, the second-lowest ranked
city, 81% of residents had that impression, while in the 3rd highest-ranked
city of Denver 65% agreed that a tan improves a person's attractiveness.
"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," James says in a news release.
He notes that if detected early, skin cancers can be successfully treated.
It is a different story, however, when detection is late. The five-year
survival rates for individuals with regional and distant melanoma are 65% and
16% respectively, James says.
Melanomas generally grow sideways before they grow deep, he tells WebMD, and
while they are growing laterally they are not generally invasive, have less
tendency to spread, and are far more curable than when they are detected
When detected late, melanomas are much harder to treat successfully, he
says. "That's why people must be vigilant about protecting their skin from sun
exposure and aware of the early warning signs of skin cancer."
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology
recommends the following tips:
Curious about how the 26 cities stacked up in terms of sun smarts? Check out
No. 1 - Hartford
No. 2 - Salt Lake City
No. 3 - Denver
No. 4 - Tampa, Fla.
No. 5 - Boston
No. 6 - Phoenix
No. 7 - Atlanta
No. 8 - Philadelphia
No. 9 - Portland
No. 10 - Baltimore
No. 11 - Dallas
No. 12 - Houston
No. 13 - Miami
No. 14 - San Francisco
No. 15 - Washington, D.C.
No. 16 - Detroit
No. 17 - San Diego
No. 18 - Cincinnati
No. 19 - New York
No. 20 - Minneapolis
No. 21 - St. Louis
No. 22 - Los Angeles
No. 23 - Seattle
No. 24 - Cleveland
No. 25 - Chicago
No. 26 - Pittsburgh
SOURCES:William James, MD, president, American Academy of Dermatology.American Academy of Dermatology web site: "The Sun and Your Skin."News release, American Academy of Dermatology.
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