Over half (53 per cent) of people within the UK worry less about skin cancer than other cancers, with nearly one in five (18 per cent) misguidedly thinking it’s easily avoidable, according to new research. Furthermore, 38 per cent of people within the UK are not aware that skin cancer is potentially fatal.
In addition, almost two thirds (63 per cent) misjudged the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their life while 85 per cent underestimated how many people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, in the UK every year. Six in ten (59 per cent) underestimated the severity in terms of lives lost to the disease.
The findings, taken from a research report commissioned by the British Skin Foundation among a sample of 5,000 adults, also reveal more than half (56 per cent) do not realise malignant melanoma can spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs and brain.
Dr Bav Shergill, Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatological Surgeon, said: “Skin cancer kills seven people in the UK every day and rates of malignant melanoma continue to rise faster than any other type of common cancer. In fact, there are more cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year than any other form of cancer in the UK. However, this research shows that people are often underestimating how serious the disease can be and the lasting impact it can leave on lives.”
Only 36 per cent of people, just over a third, have checked their skin for changes that could indicate skin cancer. Furthermore, 35 per cent admit they wouldn’t feel confident knowing what to look for.
In addition, only a quarter (25 per cent) say they would get a mole checked by their GP straight away if they noticed a change, while 8 per cent would wait until it got noticeably worse before seeking medical advice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men are less likely to act promptly, with just 61 per cent of men saying they would act on a mole that has changed shape or size, compared to 81 per cent of women.
Over a third (34 per cent) of people don’t know that skin cancer can appear on any area of the body, including ‘under your nails’ and ‘on the palms of your feet’ and nearly 1 in 5 (18 per cent) are unaware that you can get skin cancer, whatever your skin colour.
Dr Shergill continues: “If skin cancer is caught early, it is usually treatable but unfortunately, it is very difficult to treat once it has spread to other parts of the body. Tragically there is currently no treatment that will cure malignant melanoma once it has spread beyond its original site. Other forms of non-melanoma skin cancer, including Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Call Carcinoma, can leave patients needing serious work such as surgery, skin grafts and fillers to repair disfigurement.”
“While certain behaviours, like use of sun beds and not protecting your skin while in the sun, can increase the risk, skin cancer can affect anyone and isn’t always a result of excessive sun exposure. It is a complex and deadly disease that we still don’t fully understand so we desperately need more research to help us understand the condition further,” concludes Dr Shergill.
On the back of the research report, the British Skin Foundation has launched a skin cancer research fundraising campaign called ‘It Takes 7’, which aims to highlight the reality of skin cancer but also to celebrate the positive impact groups of people can make when they pull together for a cause. Every penny raised by the British Skin Foundation through the ‘It Takes 7’ campaign will go straight towards funding vital research.
For more information about the campaign, visit www.ittakeseven.org.uk.
 All findings from study of 5,000 men and women of all ages by One Poll, February 2014.