Experts voice skin cancer concerns as over a third of Scotland plans hot-climate holiday

● New survey data released by the charity Melanoma Focus shows that 35% of Scottish adults are planning a hot summer holiday this year. For the majority, it will be the first since the start of the pandemic.
● Only 57% plan on wearing sunscreen.
● Experts have voiced concerns about the increased risk of melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.
● Data also shows 1 in 8 people in the UK aren’t wearing sunscreen because it is too expensive.

35% of Scottish adults will be benefiting from the relaxed travel rules and are planning a hot summer holiday this year according to new data released today by the charity Melanoma Focus. For the majority (86%) of them it will be their first holiday in a hot climate since the start of the
Covid-19 pandemic.[1] The results are mirrored across the UK. [2]

Experts have voiced concerns in response to the new data which also shows that, of those living in Scotland and planning on a holiday in a hot climate this summer, only 57% plan on always wearing sunscreen.

In a UK-wide survey carried out by Melanoma Focus, around half (42%) of people who do not regularly wear sunscreen when travelling to a hot country, say it’s because they don’t expect to burn or that they have a preference to get tanned. This is despite the fact that, prior to the pandemic, 59% of respondents said they would sunburn at least once per year.

1 in 36 men and 1 in 47 women in the UK will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and, across the country, accounts for 1% of all cancer deaths and kills 2,300 people per year. Yet 86% of melanomas are preventable.[3]

Melanoma skin cancer is becoming more common in the UK with around 16,700 new cases every year (46 every day). Since the early 1990s incidence rates have more than doubled and in males they have almost tripled. It is expected to continue to rise.[4]

The survey found that young people appeared less concerned about skin health, are less likely to wear sunscreen when travelling to a hot country and were more likely to have been sunburned each year.[5] This is of particular concern because research shows that if you have had more than five sunburns in your life you have doubled your risk of getting melanoma skin cancer but just one serious sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.[6]

The vast majority (86%) of melanoma skin cancer is preventable yet the new data shows that less than a third of people (27%) knew that SPF 30 or above is generally advised as the most appropriate level of sunscreen protection and only 16% of respondents always wear sunscreen when in the UK while 28% said they do ‘most of the time’.

Importantly, the survey also showed that 1 in 8 people (12%) in the UK aren’t wearing sunscreen because it is too expensive and people on the very lowest incomes are less likely to wear sunscreen than any other economic group. Other reasons cited were a desire to tan, a belief they won’t burn or a feeling that sunscreen is too messy and unpleasant to wear.

Susanna Daniels, CEO of Melanoma Focus, said:

“86% of melanoma skin cancer cases are preventable. We’re not telling people they shouldn’t enjoy their Summer but, if you’re going to be exposed to the sun then it’s crucial that you protect your skin from a young age. Apply a combined UVA and UVB sunscreen SPF 30 or above and repeat applications every two hours. Wear a hat, sunglasses and cover up exposed skin, especially in the heat of the day and stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm if you can.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“May is skin cancer awareness month and I am delighted to support Melanoma Focus ‘Know your skin: Be smart about skin cancer’ campaign. I would encourage anyone to check for any new or changes to existing moles and contact their GP practice should they have any concerns.”

Dr Charlotte Proby, Professor of Dermatology at Ninewells Hospital & Medical School in Dundee, said:

“Melanoma skin cancer incidence is increasing year on year in Scotland and a lot of this is due to sun-seeking behaviour. What we see again and again is patients who are extremely shocked to receive a diagnosis of melanoma as they didn’t realise their exposure to the sun was so risky. The sun in Scotland is much more damaging than you think. Exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds can cause permanent damage to DNA in skin cells making it more likely for skin cancers to develop. Avoiding these rays is the best way to protect yourself, particularly if you have pale skin or a family history of melanoma skin cancer. Enjoyment of the outdoors and regular exercise is important, but be diligent about using a high factor sunscreen and wear a hat.”

[1] View the full data tables here
[2]35% of Scottish and 35% of UK adults are planning a holiday in a hot country this summer
[3]Melanoma skin cancer statistics | Cancer Research UK
[4]Melanoma skin cancer statistics | Cancer Research UK
[5]49% of 18 to 25 year olds plan to wear sunscreen in a hot country. 82% of respondents said they would sunburn at least once per year.
[6]Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics – The Skin Cancer Foundation Lew RA, Sober AJ, Cook N, et al. Sun exposure habits in patients with cutaneous melanoma: a case study. J Dermatol Surg Onc 1983; 12:981-6.