Open Access Research article

Sun protection and exposure behaviors among Hispanic adults in the United States: differences according to acculturation and among Hispanic subgroups

Elliot J Coups123*, Jerod L Stapleton12, Shawna V Hudson134, Amanda Medina-Forrester1, Ana Natale-Pereira5 and James S Goydos16

Author Affiliations

1 The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, 195 Little Albany Street, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

2 Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 125 Paterson Street, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

3 Department of Health Education and Behavioral Science, UMDNJ-School of Public Health, 683 Hoes Lane West, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA

4 Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, One Worlds Fair Drive, Somerset, NJ, 08873, USA

5 Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, 185 South Orange Avenue, Newark, NJ, 07103, USA

6 Department of Surgery, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 125 Paterson Street, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:985  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-985

Published: 15 November 2012



Skin cancer prevention interventions that target the growing number of U.S. Hispanics are lacking. The current study examined the prevalence and correlates of sun protection and exposure behaviors (i.e., sunscreen use, shade seeking, use of sun protective clothing, and sunburns) among U.S. Hispanics with sun sensitive skin, with a focus on potential differences according to acculturation and Hispanic origin.


The sample consisted of 1676 Hispanic adults who reported having sun sensitive skin (i.e., they would experience a sunburn if they went out in the sun for one hour without protection after several months of not being in the sun). Participants completed survey questions as part of the nationally representative 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Analyses were conducted in August 2012.


Greater acculturation was linked with both risky (i.e., not wearing sun protective clothing) and protective (i.e., using sunscreen) sun-related practices and with an increased risk of sunburns. Sun protection and exposure behaviors also varied according to individuals’ Hispanic origin, with for example individuals of Mexican heritage having a higher rate of using sun protective clothing and experiencing sunburns than several other subgroups.


Several Hispanic subpopulations (e.g., those who are more acculturated or from certain origins) represent important groups to target in skin cancer prevention interventions. Future research is needed to test culturally relevant, tailored interventions to promote sun protection behaviors among U.S. Hispanics. Such initiatives should focus on public health education and increasing healthcare provider awareness of the importance of skin cancer prevention among Hispanics.

Acculturation; Hispanic; Latino; Skin cancer; Melanoma; Risk behaviors; Sunburn; Prevention