Majority of people 'would not recognise' signs of skin cancer

Three-quarters of people would not recognise signs of skin cancer, a survey has shown. Credit: Owen Humphreys / PA Archive/PA Images

The majority of British people would not recognise signs of skin cancer, according to a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists.

The research also revealed that a "shocking" 72% of people admitted having been sunburned in the previous year and most do not undertake the monthly recommended checks for skin cancer.

Today marks the beginning of Sun Awareness Week, which aims to inform people of the dangers of the sun and how to protect themselves.

Almost three-quarters of people we surveyed admitted that they had been sunburned in the last year, which is shocking. With sunny days already making an appearance in parts of the UK, it is likely that this figure will remain high this year. This is a reflection of poor sun protection habits - people underestimate the damage that sunburn can do to their skin, and many think that skin reddening is just a harmless part of the tanning process, rather than a sure sign that you have damaged your skin irreparably. >

British Association of Dermatologists
People who have been sunburned before are doubly at risk of developing melanoma. Credit: nthony Devlin / PA Archive/PA Images

More than 2,000 people in the UK die from skin cancer each year.

People who have been sunburned before are doubly at risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than those who have not been, the Association said.

According to Cancer Research UK skin cancers may look like:

  • A spot or sore that does not heal within 4 weeks

  • A spot or sore that itches, hurts, is scabbed or crusty, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks

  • Areas where the skin has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn't heal within 4 weeks, and you can't think of a reason for this change

Charlotte Proby, chairwoman of the Association's Skin Cancer Prevention Committee said: "Rising skin cancer rates are a major health concern for the UK, and some dermatology departments are stretched to capacity trying to keep up with cases.

"Many people in the UK are aware of the dangers; however, this has yet to translate into a culture of sun protection and skin checking which would do a lot to curb the incidence and deaths from this disease.

"As summer comes around again we want people to consider the message that you can enjoy the warm weather whilst staying safe."

The research, carried out last summer, surveyed 1,018 people.