Thousands suffer serial sunburn but most fail to check for skin cancer

NEARLY one in ten people in Britain has suffered sunburn more than 30 times, while close to two-thirds admit they have never checked themselves for signs of skin cancer, according to a new survey.

Some 8 per cent of respondents to the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) study admitted they had been sunburnt on more than 30 occasions, while 64 per cent have not looked for symptoms of the disease. The survey, which coincides with a new campaign designed to raise awareness about skin cancer, found that the vast majority of Britons believe a sun tan gives a healthier appearance, a view even more prominent among younger people.

It also showed that even among those who claimed their skin was of a type that never burned or suffered only minimal damage, instances of sunburn were rife.

The survey of more than 1,000 people found that overall, no fewer than 92 per cent had experienced sunburn, many of whom had been burnt time and again; 7 per cent recalled being burnt 21 to 30 times; 16 per cent had been burnt 11 to 20 times; 26 per cent were burnt six to ten times; and 36 per cent said they had been burnt on between one and five occasions.

The figures were released by the BAD ahead of its Sun Awareness Week, which will be launched on Monday. The campaign focuses on both prevention and early detection, encouraging people to regularly self-examine their skin for warning signs of cancer, like changes in the appearance of the skin such as a new growth, and teaching people about sun protection to reduce their risk of developing the disease.

It comes days after figures released by health statistics service ISD Scotland revealed a sharp increase in cases of skin cancer in Scotland, with a 62.8 per cent increase in malignant melanoma between 2000 and 2010.

Stephen Jones, president of the association, said: “Not everyone’s skin offers the same level of protection in the sun, which is why it’s really important to get to know your own risk level. ”

Out of a demographic who described themselves as “naturally dark skinned” who “never burn,” the survey of 1,159 people showed that some 41 per cent admitted suffering burning, while 94 per cent of those who said their skin “burns minimally and always tans” said they had been left burnt at least once.

More than one in four respondents who identified their skin type as of a kind which “always burns” said they used either no sunscreen at all, or applied factor 15 or less.