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

  • Guillermo De Castro-Maqueda
  • J. V. Gutierrez-Manzanedo
  • J. G. Ponce-González
  • J. R. Fernandez-Santos
  • M. Linares-Barrios
  • M. De Troya-Martín


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.


Sun protection Skin cancer Sunscreen use Sunburn Aquatics athletes 



The researchers thank the officials and organisers of the different championships involved in this study (World Surf League, Professional Windsurf Association, Spanish Olympic Circuit) and all the athletes and other participants for their invaluable contributions to this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical Education, Faculty of Education SciencesUniversity of CádizCádizSpain
  2. 2.Dermatology Service, Servicio Andaluz de SaludHospital Universitario Puerta del MarCádizSpain
  3. 3.Dermatology ServiceHospital Costa del Sol. Servicio Andaluz de SaludMarbellaSpain

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