Experts call for people to keep checking their skin all year round, even as we begin to prepare to wrap up for winter.
New survey results released today by LEO Pharma as part of the Know Your SkinTM campaign warn that Lincolnshire residents might have a dangerous lack of knowledge when it comes to keeping safe in the sun, and that they could be ignoring potential markers for skin cancer.
The figures suggest that 9 out of 10 people in Lincolnshire spend time gardening but, of those, nearly half say they never or rarely apply SPF 30+ sun cream when doing so. More than a quarter say that this is because they don’t think it is necessary to and over a third because they forget.
More concerning is the fact that half of the Lincolnshire residents surveyed admitted they take more care of their skin abroad than when at home – despite us having experienced a lot of sunshine in the UK this summer. In fact, 53% said they don’t do anything to protect themselves when sunbathing or out and about in the sun.
And those who have noticed changes to their sun-exposed skin are unfortunately reluctant to do anything about it, with 36% choosing to ignore signs of damage in the hope that they will go away. This includes dry or scaly patches of skin, which can indicate solar keratosis – a condition that confers an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Solar keratosis (SK) affects over 3 million people in the UK alone, but awareness of the condition is relatively low. In fact, more than half of the Lincolnshire residents who were asked had never heard of SK, which is characterised by rough patches of skin that can develop following prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Commenting on the research, Know Your SkinTM campaign supporter Dr Krisztina Scharrer, Consultant Dermatologist from the United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust, said:
“This new campaign is much needed, because in spite of all the information available to us on sun damage, many people in Lincolnshire are still forgetting the basics when it comes to looking after their skin. Prolonged exposure to sunlight is the leading cause of solar keratosis â€“ a condition that can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer in a small number of cases.”
“Even though we are moving towards the end of our time for traditional British summer holidays, it’s important to be cautious all year round and watch out for signs of change to your skin, wherever you are and whatever the season, and to go and see your GP if you have any concerns. The sun doesn’t discriminate if we are sunbathing or just outdoors doing general activities like gardening, walking, cycling, running, playing tennis or even going to the shops, so it is crucial to get into the habit of applying SPF 30+ sun protection as a part of a skin care routine and doing regular checks for conditions such as solar keratosis.”
The Know Your SkinTM campaign aims to remind the public about the hidden dangers of the sun – both at home as well as abroad – and highlights the importance of checking your skin for signs of change all year round. One in ten of the people surveyed didn’t know that checking your skin could identify solar keratosis and said that they wouldn’t know how to do it. In addition, one in five people surveyed wouldn’t want to ask a healthcare professional (HCP) to help, as they would worry about wasting their time.
Shirley Green from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire, who has a history of sun damaged skin, said:
“When I was growing up, people had not yet realised the level of damage that the sun can cause to your skin. I was out in it all the time but never used sun cream. People of my generation now need to be aware of what solar keratosis is and what to look out for as it really is more than moles! I noticed a patch of stubborn, itchy, dry skin that just wouldn’t go away, even with moisturisers, but didn’t realise what it was until my doctor noticed the patches. If you were out in the sun a lot without the recommended SPF 30+ over the years then solar keratosis could affect you too – that’s why it’s so important to keep checking your skin and go and visit your doctor if you notice any changes.”
Know Your SkinTM has been designed to help people do just that: know their skin. As well as useful information and advice, the campaign has also created tools to help people achieve healthier skin, such as a downloadable skin check guide and interactive risk assessment calculator.
To find out more about solar keratosis and to learn how to conduct a monthly skin check visit the new Know Your SkinTM website from LEO Pharma (www.KnowYourSkin.co.uk/lincolnshire). You can also follow the campaign on Twitter @SkinCheck #KnowYourSkin.