Home or away, sunburn affects too many Brits

More than one in three British people have been sunburned in the last year while in the UK, with almost half of those holidaying abroad also affected by sunburn says a report by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) to mark Sun Awareness Week (May 8 - 14, 2017).

Twenty-eight percent of the 35 percent of Brits who were sunburned in the UK were also sunburned three or more times, the report suggests. However, most of the cases of sunburn both here and abroad could have been avoided by following basic sun protection advice, say BAD experts. Sixty-one percent of sunburn cases were caused by people not realising how strong the sun was, 43 percent were caused by not applying sunscreen often enough and 30 percent by not reapplying sunscreen after sweating or swimming.

Other reasons why Brits have been sunburned are linked to cultural factors, claims the report. For instance, 19 percent of those who had been sunburned said they wanted a suntan, eight percent said they felt drinking alcohol had contributed to their sunburn, and 13 percent said they had fallen asleep in the sun.

In terms of who’s getting sunburned, the report claims there’s not much difference between men and women, but younger people are more likely to be sunburned than those who are older (the highest number of cases of sunburn were found among those aged 25 – 34 and the lowest in the over 55s).

No laughing matter

“British people are increasingly well informed about sun protection and seem to understand the risks of sunburn, largely thanks to campaigns like Sun Awareness Week, however it’s proving to be a long and slow road to actually changing how we, as a culture, look after ourselves in the sun,” says Dr Nick Levell, BAD president.

“Too many people are ready to laugh off sunburn as the inevitable price of enjoying the summer, but it shouldn’t be. It’s possible to enjoy the sun, and summer, without suffering sun damage; it just takes a bit of care.

“Particularly shocking is the small, but not insignificant, proportion of the population who seem to be ‘super’ burners. It’s far from ideal for anyone to get sunburnt, but there are people out there who are reporting being burnt seven, eight, nine, ten, or even eleven times a year, both in the UK and abroad. These people are really putting their lives at risk and need to think about how they can change their behaviour to prevent sunburn.”

How to stay safe

The risk of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is more than double in people with a history of sunburn compared with those who’ve never been burned, says BAD. The association also claims there are more than 15,400 UK cases of melanoma every year, resulting in around 2,459 deaths annually. Each year there are also more than 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in this country.

This year’s Sun Awareness campaign sees BAD teaming up with Macmillan Cancer Support. Here are the campaign’s top tips on protecting your skin from the sun:

  1. Spend time in the shade during the sunniest part of the day when the sun is at its strongest, which is usually between 11am and 3pm in the summer months.
  2. Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and very young children.
  3. When it is not possible to limit your time in the sun, keeping yourself well covered, with a hat, t-shirt, and sunglasses, can give you additional protection.
  4. Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed areas of skin. Re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming, sweating or towelling to maintain protection.

To find the right level of sun protection for your skin type, ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend a suitable sunscreen product. Find your nearest pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.