Tuesday 29 July 2014

Young Brits Disregard Skin Cancer Risks at Home


News Release
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Young Brits disregard skin cancer risks at home, says new report

15 July 2014: Brits are underestimating the risks of sun exposure when home in the UK, according to a new AXA PPP healthcare investigation* into attitudes to sun protection, with 18-24 year olds being the biggest culprits.

The study, based on a poll of 2000 adults, reveals widespread misconceptions about sun protection in the UK, with clear divides between gender and age.

Only a quarter (26 per cent) of 18-24 year olds say they take their personal sun protection seriously when at home in the UK, always applying a high level of sunscreen. It’s not surprising therefore that half of the respondents in this group admit to having been sun burned one or more times while in Britain in the past 12 months. This compares with older, evidently sun-wiser, respondents. Just 14 per cent of those aged 55+ and 23 per cent of those aged 45-54 said they’d been burnt by the British sun in the past year.

Young un-sun-savvy in so many ways
·         Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of 18-24 year olds think the sun in Britain is too weak and insufficiently dangerous for them to need sunscreen protection, compared with just 9 per cent and 10 per cent of those aged 55+ and 45-54, respectively.
·         Over two fifths (42 percent) of 18-24 year olds think they can’t get sunburn on a cloudy day in the UK, compared with 30 per cent of those aged 55+ and 32 per cent of those aged 45-54.
·         Over a third (37 per cent) of 18-24 year olds believe that spray-on tan will protect them from getting sun burn, compared with 14 per cent and 17 per cent of those aged 55+ and 45-54, respectively.
·         Nearly a third (31 per cent) of 18-24 year olds think that rubbing on vegetable oil will protect them from sun burn, compared with 10 per cent and 12 per cent of those aged 55+ and 45-54, respectively.
·         Lack of burn awareness even extended to dogs: only 39 per cent of 18-24 year olds knew that dogs can, in fact, get sun burn, compared with 56 per cent and 59 per cent of those aged 55+ and 45-54, respectively.

“It’s a surprisingly common belief that the sun is only strong enough to be harmful when abroad but people need to know that it can be just as dangerous in the UK and sun protection is not just something to think about when they go away on holiday,” says Dr Steve Iley, medical director for health services at AXA PPP healthcare.

Skin cancer is the UK’s most common cancer. Over 13,000 new cases of the most dangerous form, malignant melanoma, were diagnosed in 2011, along with over 100,000 cases of the less severe – and highly treatable – non-melanoma form of the disease. Excessive exposure to sunlight and increasing use of sunbeds are believed to have been major contributors to the growing numbers of people diagnosed with the disease since the mid 1970s.**

Dr Iley continues: “Sun safety messages seem to be getting through to older adults but it is clear that more needs to be done to raise the awareness of younger people. It’s a concern that malignant melanoma rates are disproportionately higher in younger people in the UK compared with those for other commonly occurring cancers. To prevent an increase in skin cancers in years to come, we need to start thinking about the damage too much sun can do, however old we are.

People are advised to consult their GP immediately if a mole develops any of the following signs:

·         changing shape, particularly getting an irregular outline
·         changing colour, getting darker, becoming patchy or multi-shaded
·         an existing mole getting bigger or a new mole growing quickly
·         if a mole starts to itch or become painful
·         if a mole is bleeding, becoming crusty and or looks inflamed.

In light of these findings, AXA PPP healthcare has partnered with the Karen Clifford skin cancer charity, Skcin, to help spread the word about the importance of sun safety. As a part of the charity’s sun safety educational work, the charity has written a children’s book entitled George the Sun Safe Superstar.  It’s part of its free Sun Safe Schools & Nurseries accreditation schemes which encourage children to remember the Five S’s of Sun Safety – Slip, Slop, Slap, Slide (on sunglasses) and Shade – and stay safe in the sun. Charlotte Fionda, development director at Skcin, says: “We’re very grateful to AXA PPP for its support in turning our George book into an animated film. Sun safety is critical for people of all ages – and especially so for children. Failure to protect your skin in the sun and allowing it to burn increases the risk of skin cancer. This is important to avoid because the increased risk that sun damage causes cannot be reversed at the present time.”

Despite the worrying findings, sun awareness seems to be changing for the better, with women outpacing men in the sunscreen stakes. Over four fifths (82 per cent) of women said they think more about using sunscreen nowadays than they did five years ago, compared with 73 per cent of men. On the other hand, when it came sun bed users, over three quarters of men (78 per cent) and women (77 per cent) said they had cut down on how much they’d used them in the past five years.

Women consistently dealt with sun risks better than men did – home and away. When abroad in a hot sunny country, over half (52 per cent) the women surveyed said they take their sun protection very seriously, always applying a high level of sunscreen when outdoors in daylight hours, compared with 43 per cent of men. Even at home in the UK during the spring and summer months, 30 per cent of women said they take their sun protection just as seriously as when abroad, compared with 26 per cent of men. And, when it comes to skin protection, women led the way in playing it safe. Nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of women said they used a sunblock factor of 20 or more for their personal protection, compared with 61 per cent of men.


“Of course it’s important to be careful in the sun but it’s not all bad news. Exposure to sunshine is one of the ways we get our vitamin D, lack of which can lead to bone weakness problems such as rickets and osteomalacia. It’s all about getting the right balance and protecting your skin from excessive exposure and burning – whether at home or away,” says Dr Iley.


AXA PPP healthcare’s Sun Aware Centre provides information and advice on personal or family health. Its Ask the Experts service is also available for medical questions; enquirers will usually receive a response from a healthcare expert within 48 hours.


*Online survey of 2000 UK adults conducted during May 2014 by market researcher One Poll.

**Skin cancer statistics, Cancer Research UK:

John DuBois / Ben Faulkner              AXA PPP healthcare press office                      01892 612822

Case study one

Young person sunburnt in the UK – Tom Bourlet, 25, Brighton

25 year old Tom Bourlet, writer of travel blog spaghettitraveller.com, has travelled to countless destinations across the globe, but never expected to get severe sun burn in the UK.

“I’ve been severely sun burnt on two occasions in the UK. First when I was 23 at the Beach Break festival in Wales, and this April in Bristol. I completely underestimated the warmth of the sun. I applied a small amount of sun lotion when I started to feel burn after around four hours of being outside, but it was far too late by then.”

“I only ever think about sun lotion when travelling abroad. You automatically reach for the lotion when you’re on holiday, but it’s just not something you tend to think about it in the UK. “It’s definitely something I’m more aware of since I have been burnt.”
Case study two

Living with sun damaged skin (morphoeic basal cell carcinoma) – Debbie, 50, Bournemouth



My name is Debbie married with three children, from sunny Bournemouth this is my story so far with living with skin cancer. At the age of 41 I was diagnosed with my first basal cell carcinoma (BCC) morphoeic type which is a more aggressive form of skin cancer (non-melanoma) that needs to be spotted at the early stages to avoid further disfigurement, especially on the face!

It started with me having a small spot like cyst on the side of my nose which didn’t heal after a few months and it just got bigger and formed a pearl like spot about 5mm in diameter. The first GP to have it checked said it was nothing to worry about but, after a couple of months with it, it was still not healing and was changing size and form and would often bleed. I had a second opinion from another GP and luckily he knew that it was a basal cell carcinoma and referred me on to a specialist for skin cancer treatment where I had it surgically removed. This was not a pleasant experience and to add to this, I was told at the time, I also had to have a second one removed just below my cheek bone. As a result, I was back again to have this removed and unlike the first, it required a skin graft.

So that year for me was the beginning of my journey living with basal cell carcinoma, caused by sun damage in my early years, meaning from now on to be extra careful with sun exposure. Knowing the damage had already started, I then had to have further surgery two years later to have a third removal on my eye lid. For this surgery, I had to go to the eye hospital and then a year later I had one removed from my back, then another from my stomach, leg and arms.

Already this year, now aged 47, I’ve had to have a fourth removal – this time done by Mohs surgery – on the other side of my nose. This is still in the process of healing as I write my story. I also have to go back again in a couple of months’ time to have yet another removal, which will be my fifth! This one is on the right side under my eye as the biopsy came back positive. I’m also to have a biopsy taken from my knee and arm and so it continues…

With all this treatment and surgery, has meant there is scarring, especially on my face, which has affected my confidence and self-esteem as a result. It has become tiring explaining to others that it’s been unfortunate for me having fun in the sun as a child and in my teen years with no knowledge that too much sun would cause skin cancer in my later years.

As a child, I had fair skin and hair, with green eyes and freckles on my nose, which my mum described as “I’d been kissed by the sun.” Little did I know the sun was causing damage to my skin! Growing up in the seaside town of Blackpool and only living five minutes’ walk away from the beach, meant my early childhood memories were of spending lovely hot summers down the beach. We had a few holidays abroad and I also did many outdoor activities such as horse riding and bike riding etc.

With my birthday being on 21st June, I had many happy parties in the sunshine with excess sun exposure, protected only by low factor sun cream. Back then my parents just said, “Mind you don’t get sun burnt or get sunstroke.”

Now as a parent of three and living in Bournemouth (another seaside town), my warning is not to get burnt or sunstroke and to keep in the shade between 11 and 3, as this is when the sun is at its strongest. I would also suggest wearing high factor sun screen to avoid the risk of developing skin cancer in your later years.

Back in my teens, us girls on holidays abroad would apply a coconut oil to our skin, which at the time, was the very thing to get a deep tan. Looking back, I now cringe, as I know now it was more frying my skin than protecting it.

So this is the reason for my story, to hopefully educate others that the sun can do serious damage to your precious skin, so be warned and take good care of it.

The update to my story now aged 50 is that unfortunately two years ago I had to undergo yet more BCC removal Mohs surgery on the left side to my nose, then more surgery as BCC had returned on the upper of my right side of my nose this time it was close to my tear duct which left me with a droopy eye so I then had to have further corrective surgery at the eye hospital.
Then, recently last month, I had to have a BCC removal from my back and then had to undergo yet again more biopsies on my face this time under my right eyelid and on the tip of my nose, and also a removal surgery on my shoulder. The biopsy results came back for my nose and lower eyelid positive to BCC so unfortunately for me again I've now to have more Mohs surgery again to my nose and lower eyelid. I've just now the anxious wait on my Mohs surgery appointment that could be any day soon. And so my never ending story goes on. I continue to hope sharing my story helps in education and prevention for others.

Notes to editors
About AXA PPP healthcare
AXA PPP healthcare has been helping people to access healthcare services since 1940. Today it forms the UK healthcare arm of AXA and provides cover for medical and dental care for individuals and employers, and employee wellbeing, counselling, occupational health and rehabilitation services through its specialist Health Services division.

About AXA
The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 160,000 employees serving 102 million clients in 56 countries. In 2013, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 91.2 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 4.7 billion. AXA had Euro 1,113 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2013.

In the UK AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth, AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary, AXA Personal Direct and Partnerships, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 10,500 staff in the UK.

The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY.

The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD.

It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

About Skcin
Skcin is a national charitable organisation targeting skin cancer in the UK. Its principle objective is to ensure that the danger of over-exposure to the sun is given greater profile with the emphasis on education resulting in the vital early detection of the disease. To find out more about the charity and its free resources for schools and nurseries visit http://www.skcin.org/.

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