Nina Goad: Sun awareness education is first step to preventing excessive UV exposure

Nina Goad

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. Each year there are 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 13,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer within the UK, and these statistics are rising.

UV radiation, as found in sunlight and sunbeds, is a well-known cause of skin cancer. Figures from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) show that, of the UK skin cancers mentioned above, 1,740 are linked to uncontrolled sun exposure at work. Five outdoor workers a day get skin cancer in the UK, and 60 workers in the UK die from skin cancer each year. And indoor workers can be the worst culprits for sunburn – spending their lunch hour outside with no shade during the hottest part of the day.

A 2014 study by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) found that 95% of Brits knew that skin cancer rates in the UK were rising and 84% were worried about skin cancer in the UK climate. In spite of this, 72% had been burnt in the last 12 months and 77% didn’t feel confident in recognising the signs of skin cancer.

Facilitating behavioural change is a key tool for employers to alleviate the risk that their employees face from UV radiation. While most people are aware of the risks of UV-induced cancer they simply don’t take the precautions necessary to protect themselves. Another BAD survey, published in May 2016, found that 80% of Brits don’t apply sunscreen properly and that 35% would only seek shade if it was hot, as opposed to avoid burning.

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Providing employees with sun awareness education and knowledge of best sun safety practices is the first basic step in preventing excessive UV exposure. Further to this, providing employees with shaded outdoor areas and communal sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 would further assist in reducing risk. If budget is a problem then there is a free mobile app available (UV&ME) which is designed to encourage behavioural change by monitoring the UV levels in the user’s area and sending them a text message warning when levels become potentially dangerous for their skin type.

Nina Goad is head of communications at the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD)