Sun-protective Behavior Among High-School and Collegiate Athletes in Los Angeles, CA

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To evaluate the use, knowledge, and perceptions of sun-protective behavior (SPB), among young athletes in Southern California.


Cross-sectional survey, assessing various measures of SPB, sun exposure, attitudes, and knowledge.

Setting and Participants

A total of 1006 students from 2 public high schools and 1 public university in the Los Angeles area volunteered. Athlete volunteers were recruited during sports preparticipation examinations. Nonathlete controls were recruited from physical education classes (high school) and from an introductory lecture class (university).

Main Outcome Measures

Use of SPB during sports and nonsports activities, sun exposure, sun-protection knowledge, and attitudes. Results from athletes were compared with those from controls at each site.


Overall rates of SPB were low. During nonsports activities, university athletes had higher rates of sunscreen (37.7% vs. 32.3%, P=0.03) and hat use (34.7% vs. 17%, P<0.001) than did controls. However, university athletes had lower rates of use of long shirts (27.9% vs. 39.8%, P<0.001), long pants (38.8% vs. 63%, P<0.002), and had higher total sun exposure (16.1 vs. 10.1 h/wk, P<0.001). Similar results were seen among the high-school subjects. Despite having good knowledge of the potential dangers of ultraviolet radiation exposure, approximately 1 in 5 subjects overall had experienced a blistering sunburn within the past year.


Young athletes in the Los Angeles area reported low rates of SPB, high levels of ultraviolet radiation exposure, and high rates of sunburns, despite knowing the risks of sun exposure. Specific educational and behavioral interventions should be directed toward improving SPB in this high-risk group.

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