New survey results released today by LEO Pharma as part of the Know Your Skin campaign warn that Devon 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 an increased risk of skin cancer.

The figures suggest that 9 out of 10 people in Devon spend time gardening but, of those, nearly half say they never or rarely apply SPF 30+ sun cream when doing so.

One in three say that this is because they don’t think it is necessary to and nearly a third because they don’t spend enough time gardening to bother with it.

More concerning is the fact that 43% of the Devon residents surveyed admitted they take more care of their skin abroad than when at home – despite recent UK weather being sunnier than in some holiday destinations.

And those who have noticed changes to sun-exposed skin are unfortunately reluctant to do anything about it, with 45% choosing to ignore signs of damage in the hope that they will go away. Sun damage includes dry or scaly patches of skin, which can indicate solar keratosis – a condition that is a risk factor for non-melanoma skin cancer.

Solar keratosis (SK) affects over 3 million people in the UK alone,3,4 but awareness of the condition is relatively low.

In fact, nearly two thirds of the Devon residents who were asked had never heard of SK, which is characterised by rough patches of skin that develop following prolonged exposure of unprotected skin to sunlight.

Commenting on the research, Know Your SkinTM campaign supporter Dr Tony Downs, Consultant Dermatologist from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, said:

“In spite of all the information available to us on sun damage, many people are still forgetting the basics when it comes to looking after their skin. It’s easy to forget about the dangers of the sun in our country when we typically don’t experience it very often, however just because the sun isn’t shining that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of sun damage. Prolonged exposure to sunlight is the leading cause of solar keratosis – a condition that can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer in a small number of cases.

"The sun doesn’t discriminate so 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.”

Sue Dyson, from Sidford in Devon, who has a history of sun damaged skin said: “Having lived abroad in sunny climes for many years when I was young, and not using sun block until later in life, because effective sun blocks had not been developed and no one was aware of the potential damage to skin caused by the sun, I developed solar keratosis.

"I would strongly advise anyone and everyone to check their skin for changes on a regular basis and go to their GP if they have any concerns. It’s such an easy thing to do and it only takes a few minutes.”

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 – something one in ten of the people surveyed in Devon say they wouldn’t know how to do. In addition, a quarter of those surveyed wouldn’t want to ask a healthcare professional (HCP) to help, as they would worry about wasting their time.

Hermione Lawson of the British Skin Foundation, who is supporting the Know Your SkinTM campaign, said: “These figures are concerning. Public awareness of the dangers of too much UV exposure still needs to improve in the UK and the rates of skin cancer and potential pre-cursors such as solar keratosis are on the rise as a result.

"It is incredibly important that the general public know these dangers and check their skin regularly for any changes, seeing their healthcare professional as soon as possible if they are worried.”

Know Your Skin 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 protect their skin from sun damage, such as a downloadable skin check guide and interactive risk assessment calculator.

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