Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, and rates continue to rise. At least 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and over 2500 die from the disease. 
With statistics showing that UK levels of skin cancer are higher than Australia’s, we ran a survey ahead of Skin Cancer Awareness Week to find out how our visitors are protecting themselves from sun damage and to learn about the experiences of those who have either had skin cancer or had a loved one with the disease.
343 people completed the full survey, the majority of whom are suffering with or have experienced problems with their skin. Our survey attracted a range of participants of all ages from 18 to over 71. The majority of those who took part in the survey are living with problems due to ageing skin (64%) and a large percentage (38%) have damaged skin as a result of sun exposure. 20 people who participated have or have had skin cancer.
How are you looking after your skin?
We found 87% of our participants use sun protection when in direct sunlight but worryingly that leaves 13% who do not.
We wanted to know what precautions people were taking to protect their skin from the sun. Our participants use a range of methods to protect themselves including clothing e.g. sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. A small number of people do take extra precautions and use a parasol or attempt to stay in the shade.
Sunscreen was the most popular method of protection with 85% of participants using it. The biggest influence when choosing a sunscreen product was the Factor which far outweighs brand or price in our results.
How much sun is good for you?
We asked our participants how much sunlight they believe is good for them and we had a varied response as expected. Unfortunately there is no straight answer to this question as it is dependent on a variety of factors including skin colour, age and also what time of year or day it is.
But why is sun good for you?
Thankfully this does have an answer – our body creates the vitamin D we need from direct sunlight on the skin. A lack of vitamin D can cause bones to become soft and weak which can lead to bone deformities.
52% of participants were concerned about their vitamin D levels and 83% of our participants felt that sun exposure was a good method for increasing them. Interestingly, 87% of our participants said they would consider taking a supplement if they were concerned about their vitamin D levels.
6% of participants have or have had skin cancer. Most (50%) were diagnosed within 6 months of noticing a problem but for some it was over 12 months before they were given a definitive diagnosis (15%).
The majority of these participants believe that the following factors had the biggest impact on their susceptibility of getting skin cancer;
- Exposing their skin to the sun without protection (74%)
- Having pale skin that doesn’t tan easily or (74%)
- Having a large number of freckles and moles (74%)
Other factors considered range from eye or hair colour, taking medication that supresses the immune system, exposure to chemicals, use of sun beds or a family history of skin cancer.
If you are concerned that the sun may have damaged your skin or you are worried about skin cancer make sure you take a look at our Online Clinic on Skin Cancer & Sun Damaged Skin running from 4 – 8 May 2015. talkhealth will be teaming up with NHS Choices and top skin organisations including the British Association of Dermatologists and the British Skin Foundation to offer support and guidance. Experts will be available for the whole week to answer questions on all aspects of sun damaged skin and skin cancer.
If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.