Among Hispanics, Risky Sun Exposure Varies by Language Spoken: Study

WEDNESDAY April 17, 2013 -- English-speaking Hispanics in the United States are less likely to take measures to protect themselves from skin cancer than Spanish-speaking Hispanics, a new study finds.

The findings suggest that language needs to be considered when developing skin cancer prevention strategies for Hispanic Americans, according to Elliot Coups and colleagues at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Their study included 788 Hispanic adults in Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. Of the participants, nearly 36 percent were Spanish-speaking, 19.5 percent were English-speaking and about 45 percent spoke both languages.

English-speaking Hispanics were more likely than Spanish-speaking Hispanics to do things that put them at increased risk for skin cancer (sunbathing and indoor tanning) and less likely to protect themselves from the sun by seeking shade and wearing protective clothing.

However, language had no bearing on sunscreen use, according to the study, published in the current issue of the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Bilingual Hispanics were more likely than English-speaking Hispanics to take skin cancer prevention measures, but less likely than Spanish-speaking Hispanics.

In terms of specific behaviors, 39 percent of participants said they sunbathed. Younger people and those of Puerto Rican, Cuban, South American or "other" Hispanic heritage were more likely to do so than those of Mexican descent. Slightly more than 5 percent of the participants had ever tanned indoors, an activity that was more common among women and those of Cuban or "other" Hispanic descent than those of Mexican descent.

Overall, 53 percent of participants said they stayed in the shade most of the time or always when outside on a sunny day, 31 percent said they used sunscreen at least most of the time when outside, and 24 percent said they wore sun-protective clothing most of the time or always, the investigators found.

Hispanic men sought shade and used sunscreen less often than women, but were more likely to wear sun-protective clothing. Older people were more likely than younger people to seek shade and wear sun-protective clothing.

Slightly more than 43 percent of the study participants said they never or rarely used sunscreen. Nearly one-quarter of those who did use sunscreen did not know the sun protection factor (SPF) of their sunscreen, the findings showed.

Although Hispanics are less likely than whites to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, they are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age and at an advanced stage, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about skin cancer prevention.

Posted: April 2013


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