The majority of people in the UK are still failing to protect themselves against sunburn and are unaware of the signs of skin cancer, as rates of the deadly disease continue to rise.

In a survey of over 1,000 members of the public by the British Association of Dermatologists, 77% said they would not recognise signs of skin cancer, while 72% admitted having been sunburned in the last year.

And yet, the disease remains the most common cancer in the UK with rates on the rise since the 1960s, which suggests public health messages on the dangers of excessive sun exposure are failing to change behaviours. 

Johnathon Major of the BAD said the figures are shocking. “People underestimate the damage that sunburn can do to their skin, and many think that skin reddening is just a harmless part of the tanning process, rather than a sure sign that you have damaged your skin irreparably.”

In fact, Public Health England data published in September last year show the number of hospital admissions for skin cancer in the country rocketed 41% in just five years, with cheap holidays and fashion tanning blamed for the rise.

“Many people in the UK are aware of the dangers; however, this has yet to translate into a culture of sun protection and skin checking which would do a lot to curb the incidence and deaths from this disease,” noted Charlotte Proby, chair of the BAD’s Skin Cancer Prevention Committee.