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Brits burying their heads in the sand over UK’s most common cancer, survey finds

96 per cent of Brits fail to check their skin the recommended once a month for skin cancer, and more than 77 per cent would not recognise signs of the disease, according to a survey of over a thousand people, carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists and being released in time for Sun Awareness Week 2015 (4th-10th May).

Worryingly, 72 per cent of people admitted that they had been sunburned in the last year. This is of concern given that the risk of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer - is more than doubled in people with a history of sunburn compared with people who have never been sunburned.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and rates have been climbing since the 1960s. Every year over 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer – the most common type – 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.”

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.

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.”

Tessa Tysome of La Roche-Posay said, “This year we are very proud to be the sole sponsors of the British Association of Dermatologists’ Sun Awareness roadshow. UV sun damage is a serious issue that many people underestimate and Sun Awareness Week is a fantastic opportunity for La Roche-Posay and Anthelios to show our commitment to promoting healthy skin care.”

The British Association of Dermatologists surveyed 1,018 people over the summer of 2014 at national events across the country. The results are as follows:

  • 84% are worried about skin cancer in the UK climate
  • 88% don’t think skin cancer is any easier to remove than other cancers
  • 95% know skin cancer rates in the UK are still rising
  • 40% never check their skin for signs of skin cancer; 36% check their skin infrequently; 6% once a year; 4% once a month and 6% four times a year.
  • 77% do not feel confident that they could recognise signs of a melanoma.
  • 81% do not feel confident that they could recognise signs of a non-melanoma skin cancer.
  • 72% of people have been sunburned in the past year.

Over the summer the British Association of Dermatologists, with sponsor La Roche-Posay, will be visiting the following events with the “Be Sun Aware” roadshow:

·         Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, 9th-10th May

·         BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2015, NEC Birmingham, 11th-14th June

·         New Forest County Show, Hampshire, 28th-30th July




Notes to Editors:

For media queries please contact the British Association of Dermatologists’ communications team: email phone 0207 391 6094 / 6355 or 07825567717.

For expert comment on either Saturday or Sunday please call Professor Charlotte Proby of the British Association of Dermatologists on 07788741338. On Sunday (until mid-afternoon) or Monday please call Dr Bav Shergill of the British Association of Dermatologists on 07958600135

Sun Awareness Week takes place 4th-10th May 2015 and is owned by and trademarked to the British Association of Dermatologists. La Roche-Posay is the sole sun protection brand partner of the 2015 campaign and has been a sponsor of the British Association of Dermatologist’s Sun Awareness Campaigns since 2011.

The hashtag for Sun Awareness Week 2015 is #SunAwarenessWeek.

For more information of this year’s campaign and to learn more about sun protection and skin cancer please visit:

Sun protection tips:


1.      Spend time in the shade during the sunniest part of the day when the sun is at its strongest, which is usually between 11am and 3pm in the summer months.


2.      Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and very young children.


3.      When it is not possible to stay out of the sun, keeping yourself well covered, with a hat, T-shirt, and sunglasses can give you additional protection.


4.      Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed areas of skin. Re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming or towelling in order to maintain protection.


Checking for skin cancer:

There are two main types of skin cancer: non-melanoma, the most common, and melanoma, which is less common but more dangerous.

The following ABCD-Easy rules show you a few changes that might indicate a 'melanoma', which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

As skin cancers vary, you should tell your doctor about any changes to your skin, even if they are not similar to those mentioned here.

If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist, the most expert person to diagnose a skin cancer. Your GP can refer you via the NHS.


Asymmetry - the two halves of the area may differ in shape

Border - the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches

Colour - this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen

Diameter - most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor

Expert - if in doubt, check it out! If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist, the most expert person to diagnose a skin cancer. Your GP can refer you via the NHS

The following are some suggestions about what to look for in potential non-melanoma skin cancers.

Non-melanoma skin cancers can occur on any part of the body, but are most common on areas of skin that most often exposed to the sun such as your head and neck (including lips and ears) and the backs of your hands. They can also appear where the skin has been damaged by X-rays, and on old scars, ulcers, burns and persistent wounds.

Non-melanoma skin cancers vary greatly in what they look like. They tend to appear gradually on the skin, and slowly get bigger over time. They will not go away on their own without treatment. Some possible signs include:

-          A scab or sore that won’t heal. It may also bleed occasionally

-          A scaly or crusty patch of skin that looks red or inflamed

-          A flesh coloured, pearly lump that won’t go away and appears to be growing in size

-          A lump on the skin which is getting bigger and that may be scabby

-          A growth with a pearly rim surrounding a central crater, a bit like an upturned volcano

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease. The BAD provides free patient information on skin diseases and runs a number of high profile campaigns, including Sun Awareness, which runs from May to September annually and includes national Sun Awareness Week in May.

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