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Slapdash Slatherers increase risk of dangerous sunburn

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by Cancer Research UK | News

29 April 2010

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Nearly nine out of ten people (87 per cent) could be risking dangerous levels of skin damage, which can lead to skin cancer, because they are either not using the right amount of sunscreen, not sure of the amount they use or are not using any at all – according to a new survey by Superdrug and Cancer Research UK.

The survey of 2,140 people across the UK has revealed that we are a country of Slapdash Slatherers who don’t put on enough sunscreen or reapply it often enough. Not using sunscreen correctly in these ways can result in sunburn, a sign that the skin’s DNA has been damaged, in ways that can lead to skin cancer.

Just over one in ten people (13 per cent) knew that they used the recommended two tablespoons of sunscreen to cover their entire body, whilst wearing a swimsuit or trunks. A fifth (20 per cent), admit they don’t use any sunscreen at all.

What’s more, it seems people are confused about how often they should be reapplying sunscreen when the sun is strong – both in the UK and abroad. When holidaying abroad, almost half (49 per cent) of people who wear sunscreen don’t reapply it at least every two hours – the recommended amount, even for once a day sunscreens. This rises to 72 per cent of people who wear sunscreen when they go out in the sun in the UK.

People were also less likely to use sunscreen in the UK, with two fifths (42 per cent) of people either regularly forgetting to apply sunscreen or never using it, compared with one fifth (22 per cent) doing so abroad. In the UK, the sun’s rays can be more than capable of burning the skin, so it is important not to let sunburn catch you out.

Almost half of those surveyed (46 per cent) are confused by what SPF actually means and think that SPF30 offers double the protection of SPF15 – a worrying misconception. A SPF15 sunscreen filters out 93 per cent of UVB radiation (the type that’s mostly responsible for sunburn), while a SPF30 sunscreen filters out 96 per cent – offering just three per cent more protection.

Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart manager, said: “It’s really concerning that people don’t know how to use sunscreen properly. Sunscreen only works if you put enough on. You can’t make up for a thin layer by increasing the factor you use.

“Rates of the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, are on the rise in the UK, so we really want people to take note of what they can do to protect themselves. Applying sunscreen regularly and generously is a start, but don’t forget to take other steps to reduce your risk as well, such as covering up with clothes, sunglasses, and spending time in the shade when the sun is at its hottest. Whatever you do, don’t let sunburn catch you out.”

Martin Crisp, Superdrug Superintendant Pharmacist, added: “Slapdash Slatherers should sit up and take note of these findings. Skin cancer is a horrible disease, and one that shouldn’t be brushed off in favour of getting a tan.

“It’s clear that Brits need to be shown the correct way to apply sunscreen, which is why we’ve trained all our nurses and pharmacists this summer to advise customers on what they need to do to stay safe in the sun.”

Throughout the summer, Superdrug will be providing information and advice to its customers about sun safety, including free skin cancer risk assessments in all 200+ pharmacy stores. These stores will also be offering free sunscreen consultations showing how to apply sunscreen correctly.

This summer all Superdrug stores across the country will be organising fundraising activities to raise money for Cancer Research UK’s skin cancer research. The stores will also be helping customers understand how to enjoy the sun safely, with clear signage and information in stores.

For further information about skin cancer and Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign, visit


For further media information contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300