A survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) identifies the cities that take sun protection seriously and those that fail to make the grade despite repeated health warnings.

The survey, “Rays: Your Grade,” polled adults in 32 US metropolitan regions spanning 29 states on their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward tanning and sun protection. Cities were then ranked based on the percentage of people who scored As and Bs.

“Based on our initial review of what people are currently doing, know, and believe about sun protection, 35% of the national public score above average, with grades of A or B,” says Diane R. Baker, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and president of the AAD. “From here, our goal is to move the needle so that we have 45% or even 50% starting to score in the A or B range.”

Of the 32 cities and states ranked on their percentage of A and B grades, Washington, DC, was ranked No. 1, with 47% of its residents receiving As and Bs, followed by New York City, which earned the No. 2 ranking. Miami, Tampa, and Los Angeles rounded out the top five rankings.

Chicago was ranked last of the 32 cities polled, earning the designation of the least sun-smart city and demonstrating the need for increased efforts to educate residents on the dangers of sun exposure. Only 21% of Chicagoans received As and Bs on their tanning and sun-protection knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

Notable differences were found within specific cities when the participants were asked to answer 17 sun-smart survey questions. In Washington, there were three specific questions to which respondents rated significantly higher than average. For example, 45% of residents disagreed with the statement, “People look healthier with a tan.”

By comparison, Chicago ranked significantly lower than average when residents’ responses to the survey questions were examined.

When asked if they agree or disagree with the statement “I prefer to enjoy sunshine and not worry about what I should do to protect myself from it,” 41% of Chicagoans agreed. Similarly, 49% agreed with the statement “Given my skin type, I don’t worry too much about sun exposure.”

A high proportion of Chicagoans also felt that the climate in which they live was a reason why they were not that worried about skin cancer, implying that somehow their short period of sun exposure during the summer months could not cause enough damage to their skin to develop skin cancer.

“The notion that only people living in year-round sunny climates are prone to developing skin cancer is completely untrue,” says Baker. “As dermatologists, we treat skin cancer patients living in all areas of the country—from big cities to small towns, in tropical climates and snowbelt states. Studies also show that intense, intermittent sun exposure, which typically involves residents of colder climates vacationing in warm, tropical areas during the winter months, is a significant risk factor for developing future skin cancers.”

[www.newswise.com, May 7, 2007]