Scientists scrutinize sun seekers in study

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ultraviolet Sunscreen

Detailed research at a Hawaiian beach has broken down the sun seeker into three different groups with distinct skin types and attitudes to sun protection.

Scientists at the University of Queensland, Australia, randomly recruited 90 people at a beach in Honolulu to participate in the Sun Habits Survey.

Participants spent an average of 3 hours at the beach and were exposed to UV rays to the tune of 10.4 standard erythermal doses. The scientists said this was 5 times the UVR dose required to result in erytherma (skin reddening) among unprotected fair-skinned people.

In the December issue of the Archives of Dermatology the researchers used the sun exposure data and detailed information amassed about the beach visitors to slot them into three categories.

Data reveals three groups of sun seeker

Those in Class 1 wore little sunscreen or clothing and made minimal use of the shade but were unlikely to burn and were at a low risk of developing skin cancer.

Those in Class 2 were tan seekers despite becoming sunburned easily. They relied on sunscreen use and did not shelter from the sun using shade or clothing.

Those in Class 3 were at a high risk of developing skin cancer but were careful to protect themselves from the sun.

Of the three groups of beach visitor, ​Class 2 was identified as an important group to target because their vulnerability to sunburn and skin cancer is accompanied by a persistent appetite for sun exposure.

Almost a third of this group even exposed themselves to intense levels of UVR when they had become sunburned in the past 48 hours.

Targeting those at high risk

Reflecting on strategies to target this high risk group and other sun worshippers the scientists highlighted the potential of a cosmetic route.

They said: “Interventions that emphasize the detrimental appearance related aspects (erythema and premature ageing), coupled with strategies that target the health-related risks associated with intense doses of UVR exposure may prove efficacious.”

Source: Archives of Dermatology​November 2008, vol 144, number 11, pages 1449-1455A day at the Beach While on Tropical Vacation – Sun Protection Practices in a High-Risk Setting for UV Radiation Exposure​David L. O’Riordan, Alana D. Steffen, Kevin B. Lunde, Peter Gies