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Most State Fair-goers didn't apply sunscreen properly, study finds

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State Fair crowds
Thousands packed the Minnesota State Fair a Friday last summer.
Jim Mone | AP file

Research conducted at the Minnesota State Fair suggests people could do a lot more to guard against skin cancer.

Researchers set up free sunscreen dispensers at the Fair and watched more than 2,000 people use them for almost 100 hours.  

Most people observed failed to properly apply sunscreen and almost two-thirds of them were not wearing sun-protective clothing, hats or sunglasses, said study co-author and University of Minnesota dermatologist Dr. Ingrid Polcari.

"We found that a lot of people were, unfortunately, making mistakes when they were putting their sunscreen," she said, "so only one-third of the people using the free sunscreen applied it to all of their exposed skin."

Polcari and the other researchers also found women outpace men in applying sunscreen, and that sunscreen use dropped on cloudy days.

"This is unfortunate because up to 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate through the clouds so the public is still at risk of sunburn on some of these cloudy days," said Polcari.

She and her colleagues recommend people use what are called broad-spectrum sunscreen lotions that are SPF 30 and higher.

The research was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.