Nearly forty per cent (37 per cent) of British women and a quarter of British men have confessed that they have felt unattractive on holiday as a result of excessive exposure to the sun, according to a survey by Cancer Research UK*. This research has been conducted to highlight Sun Awareness Week, which kicks off Monday 7 May.

The survey also found that embarrassment over unsightly sunburn has meant that one in three Brits could not wear the clothes they wanted on holiday; and half of those surveyed admitted that lying on their backs was too painful as a result of sunburn. Yet British holiday-makers are still being careless in the sun – only one fifth (22 per cent) of those questioned in the national survey of 2,000 people claim to have never been burnt.

Despite the warnings, sunburn has ruined many Britons’ holidays. 15 per cent of those surveyed had to miss a night out because of burnt skin. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of people had to miss a day on the beach, and more alarmingly, two per cent of reckless British men and one per cent of women have even been forced to miss their flight home due to overexposure to the sun.

The UK population’s sex life has also suffered – 15 per cent couldn’t be intimate with their partner because their sunburn was so painful.

The survey was carried out for Sun Awareness Week as part of Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign, which is urging British holidaymakers to take care in the sun and avoid painful and unsightly burning. All types of sunburn, whether serious or mild, can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage and increases the risk of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. With over 75,000 new cases of skin cancer registered each year and rising, it’s crucial that people know how to enjoy the sun safely and know when to cover up.

Rebecca Russell, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager, said: “Sunburn can seriously increase your risk of skin cancer, which is why it is so important to be careful in the sun and take care not to burn. Exposure to the sun on summer holidays can be particularly dangerous as it often takes place in intense and infrequent bursts. Studies have shown that this type of sun exposure greatly increases your risk of melanoma.

“Some people are more likely than others to get skin cancer. They tend to have one or more of the following: fair skin, red or fair hair, lots of moles or freckles, a family history of skin cancer or experience of sunburn in the past. Those at risk can burn in as little as 10 minutes in the midday summer sun.”

SunSmart is the UK’s national skin cancer prevention campaign commissioned by the UK Health Departments and run by Cancer Research UK. The campaign focuses on those most at risk of skin cancer and the key target audience this year is holidaymakers.

More information on skin cancer and the Cancer Research UK SunSmart campaign is available from Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart website.


For further media information contact the Cancer Research UK Press Office on 020 7061 8315

*Survey by BMRB Omnibus between the dates 2nd – 11th February 2007, conducted over the telephone among 2000 adults aged 16 +. Results were weighted in order to make them nationally representative.


To reduce the risk of skin cancer and enjoy being out in the sun, the SunSmart campaign encourages people to know their skin type and use the UV index to find out when they need to protect themselves. They should also follow the SunSmart key messages:

  • S pend time in the shade between 11 and 3
  • M ake sure you never burn
  • A im to cover up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
  • R emember to take extra care with children
  • T hen use factor 15+ sunscreen
  • Also report mole changes or unusual skin growths promptly to your doctor.

It is the fifth year of the SunSmart campaign, commissioned by the UK’s Department of Health, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and early detection against skin cancer.

  • Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign is funded by UK Health Departments and launched in March 2003.
  • Sun Awareness Week kicks off Monday 7 May 2007.
  • Sun Awareness Week is the British Association of Dermatologists’ and British Skin Foundations’ annual drive to promote sun safety messages and is being supported by Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign.

Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK’s vision is to conquer cancer through world-class research.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit our homepage.