Britons still in the dark about UK’s most common cancer

May 2015. A report by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has shown that people in the UK are still burying their heads in the sand when it comes to skin cancer.

The survey of over a thousand people – carried out by BAD and published to coincide with Sun Awareness Week 2015 (4-10 May) – revealed that 96% fail to check their skin the recommended once a month for skin cancer, and more than 77% would not recognise signs of the disease.

More worrying still was the admission by 72% of people that they had been sunburned in the last year. The risk of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is more than doubled in people with a history of sunburn, compared with those who have never been sunburned.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and rates have been climbing since the 1960s. There are two main types of skin cancer: non-melanoma, the most common, and melanoma, which is less common but more dangerous. Every year over 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed, in addition to over 13,000 new cases of melanoma, resulting in around 2,148 deaths annually.

Johnathon Major of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “Almost three-quarters of people we surveyed admitted that they had been sunburned in the last year, which is shocking. With sunny days already making an appearance in parts of the UK, it is likely that this figure will remain high this year. This is a reflection of poor sun protection habits – people underestimate the damage that sunburn can do to their skin, and many think that skin reddening is just a harmless part of the tanning process, rather than a sure sign that you have damaged your skin irreparably.”

Charlotte Proby, Professor of Dermatology at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, and Chair of the British Association of Dermatologists’ Skin Cancer Prevention Committee said: “Rising skin cancer rates are a major health concern for the UK, and some dermatology departments are stretched to capacity trying to keep up with cases. Many people in the UK are aware of the dangers; however, this has yet to translate into a culture of sun protection and skin checking which would do a lot to curb the incidence and deaths from this disease. As summer comes around again we want people to consider the message that you can enjoy the warm weather whilst staying safe.”

Per Hall, Clinical Director at Check4Cancer and a pioneer in the early detection of skin cancer, added: “As with all cancers, early detection is critical. The great advantage we have with skin cancer over other forms of the disease is that it is often clearly visible. To take full advantage of this, however, is essential that we carry out regular self-checks and report any anomalies to our GPs as soon as possible. If we do this, it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Sun Awareness Week 2015, in partnership with sponsor La Roche-Posay, will culminate in an event at the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Consultant Dermatologists from the British Association of Dermatologists and nurse volunteers will be on hand to speak to the public, educate them on how to check their skin for skin cancer and provide information on sun protection techniques. There will also be a UV photo-booth to demonstrate the effect of sun damage on the skin, giving the public the opportunity to upload their pictures to social media websites during the event.