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A Nation Of Neglect: UK Is Left Red-Faced After Shocking New Data Released On Skin Damage From The Sun

woman with sunburnt back

 LifeJacket Skin Protection and Melanoma UK announce shocking new research that reveals that people in the UK are putting themselves in grave danger by not protecting their skin with SPF.

Launched during Skin Cancer Awareness Month (May), this research highlights that people are taking lax approaches to protecting their skin; they aren’t using SPF every day, are ill-informed about how the sun can damage your skin throughout the year and are rarely checking their skin for abnormalities.

  • A Dangerous Approach to SPF

Shockingly, UK adults have burnt themselves a massive 15 times on average in their lifetime. This rises to nearly 19 times when you look at 18–24-year-olds. 

This is hugely concerning when medical data suggests that 5+ burns in your lifetime double your risk of skin cancer. 10% of respondents rarely use SPF while 1 in 20 say they never use it. 

Ultraviolet light is responsible for 80% of premature skin ageing and 90% of melanoma skin cancers and UVA in particular reaches you as long as it’s light outside, so daily SPF protection should be a part of everyone’s morning routine.  

Of the UK adults who shared they don’t use SPF every day:

  • 21% said this was because they rarely burn and just tan
  • 1 in 5 said they only use it when they feel like they’re burning
  • 20% of people only remember when prompted by a friend or family member
  • 16% will only use it abroad
  • 10% only when the dial goes over 40 degrees Celsius
  • 7% like to have a tan but feel SPF stops them from getting one

Have your mates got your back?

1 in 5 of the adults surveyed said they wouldn’t ask a friend to put SPF on their back. This is particularly concerning when the back is a notoriously hard area to reach on your own and 80% of skin cancers in men are above the waist.

The reasons for not asking a friend are that 26% are embarrassed, 43% wouldn’t feel comfortable and it feels too intimate for a third, whilst 16% say their friends would laugh. In fact, a huge 1 in ten would rather burn than ask a friend to put sunscreen on their back.

  • Protect, Check, and Detect 

Even though the stats above clearly demonstrate the lack of importance people are placing on skin protection, it’s still shocking that adults have said they’ve been burnt 15 times (14.8) on average during their lifetime. Also, only 1 in 5 Brits (19%) say they’ve checked their skin for cancer with men checking the least (16% vs 21% of women).

Younger generations are taking an even more careless approach with 8% of 18-24 versus 29% of 65+-year-olds checking their skin, despite being the age group that has burnt the most. 15% said they do check their skin but struggle to know the differences between the markings on their skin and don’t know what they’re looking for, demonstrating a clear education need.

  • A Marked Man?

Medical data reveals there has been a steady and significant increase in melanoma in both genders during the last four decades which can be attributed to more holidays in destinations with strong sunlight, increased use of indoor tanning beds, lower knowledge/awareness of skin cancer and lack of use of SPF.

However, the steepest increase was observed in men, which was more than double the rate seen in women. Plus, men are twice as likely to die from skin cancer vs, women.

This certainly correlates with the research data released by LifeJacket Skin Protection today demonstrating that women are twice as likely as men to ever wear SPF or check their skin.

Co-founder, LifeJacket Skin Protection, Billy Boulos said, “This data reconfirms what we’re already aware of; most people aren’t protecting their skin adequately.

At LifeJacket Skin Protection, our mission is to give people the knowledge, tools, and products to better protect their skin every day. That will help support our vision to slow down skin cancer rates which have doubled since the 90s and are forecast to double again over the next 20 years.

We’re all about positivity and want people to get outside and do what they love but wake up to the fact that if they aren’t protecting their skin, they’re at risk of serious – yet preventable – skin damage.”. 

Professor Christian Aldridge, Consultant Dermatologist for LifeJacket Skin Protection said, “This new data correlates with what I’m seeing every day in my surgery. More and more patients are coming to me after years of little or no protection for their skin in the sun which, at best, is causing skin damage and premature ageing.

However, in many cases, it’s causing skin cancer which is almost totally preventable. We need a sharp change in attitudes to tanning and protection in order to slow down the rise in skin cancer cases.”

Tips to protect your skin by Professor Christian Aldridge

  1. Use SPF daily

Most importantly, do not underestimate the life-long effects of sun exposure on your skin. Daily use of SPF of at least 30, especially during the months of April to September, will ensure long-term skin protection.

  1. Consider clothing

The use of high UPF(Ultraviolet Protection Factor)  clothing will help to reduce the harmful effects of UV exposure and hence burning, which can increase your risk of developing Melanoma in the future, so consider wearing it particularly if you have a fair skin type.

  1. Check your skin

If you see evidence of a non-healing or newly pigmented lesion on your skin that has been there for more than 6 weeks, particularly in sun-exposed areas, then regularly check it.

Things to watch out for could be a phase of crusting, bleeding, and re-forming again or not improving with time. This would be when to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Also, when you purchase a LifeJacket Skin Protection product you get 7-day unlimited access to the mole-checking app, SkinVision, on every order. Use the app to map, monitor and get instant feedback.

CASE STUDY: Cammy Graham, Semi Professional Footballer, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 Melanoma when he was just 18 years old, said, “Prior to my diagnosis I had a really relaxed approach to protecting my skin.

I was 18 years old, often out in the sun in summer with my mates, and stupidly, even did the odd sunbed. It was only when my best mate noticed a mole on my calf had gone dark and told me to get it checked that my whole world changed as I was then diagnosed with Stage 2 Melanoma.

I had surgery to have it removed, was bed-bound for a few weeks during recovery, plus had an agonising two-month wait to find out if it had spread and whether I needed more treatment.

The whole experience was shocking and completely terrifying for my family and me. I now see my GP every 3 months to be checked and I’m personally much more proactive with using SPF and checking myself regularly.  I also encourage my mates to do the same”.

Gillian Nuttall, CEO and Founder of Melanoma UK, said “We want people to take a much more proactive approach to protecting their skin.

Daily protection is absolutely essential, and we want everyone to look at their skin and notice any differences. If there’s a blemish or something you’re not happy about, chances are it needs looking at.  Hopefully, it’s nothing but go and get it checked by a healthcare professional.”

Up Your Skin Protection Game.

LifeJacket Skin Protection is launching a campaign called Up Your Skin Protection Game with large-format outdoor advertising across all major London rail and tube stations, paid social media and online digital advertising.

The creative features a torso with a relatively normal-looking mole, with the headline ‘Doesn’t look like much’. It then reveals it is in fact skin cancer and encourages people to ‘up their skin protection game’ and check their skin regularly. 

Methodology statement – An online survey was conducted by Walr among 2002 consumers who have been on holiday in the UK or abroad within the last five years.

The research fieldwork took place between March 31 – April 03, 2023. Walr is a member organisation of the Market Research Society and abides by all codes of practice.