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Sun Awareness Week- know your skin type


Public Health Agency

Type: News
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland warned today (May 6), at the start of Sun Awareness Week, that half the population is unaware of their own skin type, which may affect their behaviour and put them at risk of cancer.New research from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) shows that 50% of the UK population thinks that their skin is darker than it actually is, which may mean they don't take enough care in the sun.Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, PHA, said: "The research showed that about half of people surveyed correctly identified their own skin type.  Almost half, however, thought their skin was darker and would tan more easily than is actually the case. Uncertainty about skin type may mean that people will be complacent when it comes to covering up to protect against sun damage."The number of cases of malignant melanoma in Northern Ireland has almost trebled in the past 25 years. People need to be aware that the best way to protect against malignant melanoma is avoid the sun, cover up or apply sunscreen no matter what their skin type."Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator, Cancer Focus, said: "The survey results reflect findings from previous studies in Northern Ireland which showed our poor skin type awareness and worrying trends in our attitude to tanning and the risks of skin cancer."The BAD survey found that the desire for tanned skin is increasing, despite public health warnings against sunbathing. Three times more men than women incorrectly believed that a base tan will protect against sun burn and sun damage. In fact, a base tan only provides very minimal protection and is actually a sign of ultraviolet (UV) damage.The survey also found that over three quarters of people infrequently or never check their skin for signs of skin cancer, despite this being the UK's most common cancer type. Furthermore, the majority admitted they have no idea what to look for even if they were to check their skin.Michele Slane, from Belfast, knows the dangers the sun can pose. Michele, who was in her 30s when she discovered she had skin cancer, said: "I used to think that because my skin didn't burn that I didn't need to worry too much about sun protection. I first noticed a black mole on my right thigh in August 2010. When it became itchy I got it checked out and discovered I had stage 2 malignant melanoma. It was such a shock and has really changed my attitude to tanning."Only half of respondents (50%) to the survey are happy to show a skin condition to their doctor, with the remaining half suggesting that 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.Dr Olivia Dolan, Consultant Dermatologist at Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, said: "Very few people in Northern Ireland regularly check their skin for signs of skin cancer. You may have some moles or dark patches on your skin that are flat or slightly raised. Usually these will remain harmless all your life, but moles or patches of normal skin that change in size, shape or colour over weeks or months in adult life should be shown to your doctor. This is important as early detection of melanoma can significantly improve survival so if you notice changes to a mole do tell your doctor who if concerned will make sure you see a Dermatologist."The survey indicates that 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). Fewer than 4 in 10 respondents knew that the SPF is what predominantly protects against sunburn, and only 4 in 10 realised that it is a product's UVA protection, rather than SPF, that prevents against skin ageing.PHA and Cancer Focus will have a stand at the Balmoral Show in Belfast from May 15 to 17 with advice about care in the sun. For further information click on If you are concerned about skin cancer you can also call the Cancer Focus free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the charity's nurses on





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Public Health Agency. (2013) Sun Awareness Week- know your skin type [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 26th June 2019].


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