Half of Britons think that their skin is darker than it actually is, putting them at risk of developing skin cancer, according to new research by the British Association of Dermatologists.

The statistics are being released to mark the start of Sun Awareness Week on Monday May 6th, and to launch the 2013 Be Sun Aware Mole and Sun Advice Roadshow supported by sun protection and skincare brand, La Roche-Posay.

1,350 people attending the organisation’s 2012 Mole and Sun Advice Roadshow were asked about skin cancer and sun safety.

Only 50 per cent of people correctly identified their own skin colour, which was then assessed by a Dermatologist, from a list of options, with 48 per cent thinking their skin was darker.

The survey also found that the desire for tanned skin is increasing, despite public health warnings against sunbathing. 62 per cent said that they found tanned skin more attractive than paler skin, compared to 56 per cent of people responding to a similar survey by the association five years ago.

The results revealed that younger people are less knowledgeable about some aspects of skin cancer than older generations, despite increased education on the disease in recent decades, which was not available to older generations, and on-going campaigns targeted at younger age groups. A third (32%) of people in their twenties perceived a tan to be a sign of good health compared with 21 per cent across all age groups.

Three times more men than women incorrectly believed that a base tan will protect against sun burn and sun damage (65 per cent of men compared to just 22 per cent of women). In fact, a base tan only provides very minimal protection and is actually a sign of ultraviolet (UV) damage.

80 per cent of people infrequently or never check their skin for signs of skin cancer, despite this being the UK’s most common cancer type. Furthermore, 69 per cent admitted they have no idea what to look for even if they were to check their skin.

However, not knowing the signs of skin cancer is not the only obstacle to early diagnosis. Only half of respondents (50%) are happy to show a skin issue to their doctor, with the remaining half citing embarrassment, lack of time, fear of wasting the doctor’s time, not liking going to the doctor and fear of skin cancer as possible barriers.

Twice as many women than men said they are afraid to waste the doctor’s time, and three times as many women are embarrassed to go to the doctor with a skin issue.

Despite persistent health warnings, sunbathing is still the most popular bronzing option with 54 per cent sunbathing abroad and 35 per cent sunbathing in the UK.

There was also a high level of confusion about what to look for in a sunscreen and the difference between a product’s UVA rating and Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Only 38 per cent of respondents knew that the SPF is what predominantly protects against sunburn, and only 39 per cent realised that it is a product’s UVA protection, rather than SPF, that prevents against skin ageing. A recent rise in moisturisers featuring SPF is believed to have led to this misconception, as people assume the added SPF properties will prevent wrinkling, when in fact it is UVA protection – often not included in these moisturisers – that performs this function.

Dr Bav Shergill of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “It is a concern that so many people think their skin is darker and tans more easily than is actually the case, as these people are likely to be spending longer in the sun than they should. I think this could be contributing to the increasing numbers of skin cancer cases I see in my clinics. We also need to address the misconception that a base tan is a good way of protecting against sunburn as this view is still very prevalent among men in particular.”

Managing Director of La Roche-Posay, Yannick Raynaud, said: “La Roche-Posay is delighted to be supporting the British Association of Dermatologists with their 2013 Be Sun Aware Mole & Sun Advice Roadshow. These statistics show that there is still a huge need to raise awareness about the need for sun protection and to educate the public about what to look for in a sunscreen and the difference between a products UVA rating and SPF. Our objective is to help raise awareness of the need for protection and decrease the risks associated with exposure. ”

181 of the 1,350 people attending the 2012 roadshow were advised to seek further advice from their doctor.

Blog article written by British Association of Dermatologists 


Guest blogger

Our guest post blogspot features a wide and diverse range of guests who have written one-off blogs about different aspects of health and fitness. If you are interested in featuring on our guest blogspot, please contact us.