Sun Awareness Week (9-15 May) survey reveals that 80% of people do not apply sunscreen before going out in the sun

Posted: 12/05/2016


This week is Sun Awareness Week, an annual event overseen by the British Association of Dermatologist’s (BAD) Skin Cancer Prevention Committee which comprises leading medical professionals with expertise in skin cancer, vitamin D and public health messaging.

Sun Awareness Week is part of a national campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer, combining prevention and detection advice. The aim is to encourage people to regularly self-examine for skin cancer and to educate people about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning, including the use of sunbeds.

According to the British Skin Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and rates continue to rise. The rates of malignant melanoma are rising faster than any other type of common cancer. At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed each year and the disease kills seven people every day - over 2,500 people each year - in the UK. On average, someone who dies from skin cancer typically loses 20 years of their life. Sun exposure is a key factor in this.

Despite this, eight out of ten people fail to adequately apply sunscreen before going out in the sun, according to a survey carried out by BAD this year. It found that 80% of people do not apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards. This approach is recommended for three key reasons:

  • to make sure that the product is fully absorbed before skin is exposed to sun
  • to help reduce the chances of areas of skin being missed
  • to ensure a thick enough layer is applied.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of people fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended.

Lucie Prothero, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who specialises in delayed diagnoses of cancer cases, said: “We wholeheartedly support Sun Awareness Week and the annual Sun Awareness campaign. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and we all have the power to take steps to help protect ourselves against it. Prevention is paramount.

“As with most cancers, the key to greater survival prospects is normally early detection so, by encouraging self-examination, skin cancer can hopefully be caught at an early stage before it has spread. Sadly, we see the terrible outcome of delayed diagnosis of skin cancers. We receive many enquiries from cancer sufferers or bereaved families who are concerned that the opportunity for an earlier diagnosis was missed, either because of failures by GPs to investigate suspicious skin lesions or due to errors in dermatological management or pathological reporting in hospitals.”


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