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New study highlights how English-speaking Latinos think they are invincible to skin cancer

LatinaLista — It may be spring but temperatures in some parts of the country — those not being hit with snowstorms — believe it’s already summer with sweltering temperatures making many rush to turn on the air conditioner or break out the swimsuits to tan by the pool.


Of those who decide to go the sun-worshipping route, a new study by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey reveals that not all Latinos take seriously the chance they could develop skin cancer when out in the sun.

Research from The Cancer Institute of New Jersey shows that U.S. Hispanics who speak English are less likely to engage in skin cancer prevention practices and more likely to put themselves at risk for skin cancer as compared to Spanish-speaking Hispanics who live in this country.

Researchers reviewed survey results from 788 Latinos who lived in Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico and Texas who answered a series of questions online in either English or Spanish about their sun prevention habits.

What they discovered was that it depends not only on language preference but also the sub-group.

For example, Latinos, in the study, who sunbathed tended to be younger or of Puerto Rican, Cuban, South American or of ‘other’ Hispanic categories, as opposed to Latinos of Mexican descent. Also, the Latinas who frequented tanning salons tended to be Cuban or ‘other’ Hispanic descent rather than Mexican descent.

Other findings of the study were:

  • Hispanics with a strong command of both languages were found to engage in skin cancer prevention behaviors at a lower level than Spanish-speaking Hispanics, but at a higher rate than English-acculturated Hispanics.
  • Bicultural participants were found to engage in these practices at levels similar to English-speaking Hispanics
  • 53 percent of participants reported that they stay in the shade most of the time or always when outside on a sunny day.
  • 31 percent reported using sunscreen at least most of the time when they are outside, while 24 percent reported wearing sun protective clothing most of the time or always.
  • Hispanic men reported using sunscreen and seeking shade less often than women, but were more likely to wear sun protective clothing.
  • Older Hispanics were more likely to seek shade and wear sun protective clothing.
  • Just over 43 percent of participants reported that they never or rarely use sunscreen.
  • Nearly a quarter of those who did wear sunscreen were not aware of the sun protection factor (SPF) of their sunscreen.

The study’s authors concluded, “The study results also highlight the need to include issues related to culture, race and ethnicity in dermatology training programs.”

While that may be true, it doesn’t erase the fact that most people already know the risks of not slathering themselves with sunscreen before venturing out into the sun. The problem is that they suffer from the universal affliction of thinking “It can’t happen to me.”

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