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Sun Protection Habits and Sunburn in Elite Aquatics Athletes: Surfers, Windsurfers and Olympic Sailors

Journal of Cancer Education
Guillermo De Castro-Maqueda, J. V. Gutierrez-Manzanedo, J. G. Ponce-González, J. R. Fernandez-Santos, M. Linares-Barrios, M. De Troya-Martín
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The objective of this study was to analyse the sun exposure habits of elite aquatics athletes, together with their sunburn history and skin examination habits, taking into account differences by sex and between sports. A cross-sectional health survey was conducted at world championship events during which elite surfers, windsurfers and Olympic sailors from 30 different countries were invited to participate. The athletes were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire focused on sun protection habits, sun exposure and sports practices. The survey was completed by 240 athletes, 171 men (71.3%) and 69 women (28.8%), with a mean age of 22 years (SD 5.86) and skin phototypes I (6.3%), II (3.3%), III (22.0%), IV (32.5%), V (9.2%) and VI (1.7%). There were significant differences between male and female athletes in skin self-examination (p < 0.001) and in the use of sunglasses (p < 0.001). In sunburn history during the last season, there were significant differences (p < 0.001) among the three sports analysed, in both sexes. The mean rate of sunburn during the previous season was 76.7%, and 27.5% of participants reported having experienced three or more sunburns that lasted at least 1 day. This type of athlete is at high risk of sunburn and hence of future skin cancer. However, there is a general lack of awareness of this risk. This study highlights the need to inform such athletes and to raise awareness of the dangers, through educational interventions on the importance of protecting against sunburn in order to reduce the future incidence of skin cancer.

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