Sunscreen is recommended to prevent sunburn and skin cancer.
To investigate sunscreen use in relation to demographic and phenotypic characteristics among women in Norway, as well as solar UV exposure, sunburn experience in different decades of life, and temporal trends in sunscreen use.
We used data from the Norwegian Women and Cancer Study, a large population-based prospective cohort study. Log-binomial regression was used to estimate the association between sunscreen use and personal characteristics. Results are presented as prevalence ratios (PRs) and 99% confidence intervals (CIs).
The study sample consisted of 148,869 women, with a mean age, when answering the questionnaire, of 53 years (range 41-75). Sixty-five per cent of the women used sunscreen during the Easter holiday, 73% in northern latitudes and 87% in bathing vacations in southern latitudes. Sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) = 15 was used by 25,156 (18%) at Easter, 18,118 (13%) in northern latitudes and 22,678 (30%) in southern latitudes. The prevalence of sunscreen use increased from 1997 to 2007, and this increase was associated with age. In 1997, 39% of women reported at least one sunburn per year in the recent decade, compared with 46% in 2007 (Ptrend = 0·001). Women who experienced at least four sunburns per year during adolescence reported more sunscreen use in adulthood (PREaster 1·54, 99% CI 1·30-1·83; PRnorthern latitudes 1·49, 99% CI 1·20-1·84; PRsouthern latitudes 1·37, 99% CI 1·14-1·65).
The prevalence of sunscreen use increased from 1997 to 2007. However, this increase has not been accompanied by a decrease in sunburn. Moreover, use of sunscreen with the recommended SPF was not common among Norwegian women.