Skin Cancer: Health Education

Health written question – answered on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department will take steps to ensure that the public are made aware of the dangers that may result from excessive exposure to the sun.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

SunSmart is a national skin cancer prevention campaign run by Cancer Research UK for which the Department provided £150,500 between 2012-13 and 2013-14. This included a social media campaign, Made in the Shade, which aimed to reduce sunburn by encouraging young people to protect themselves from the sun. Launched at The Wireless Festival, the campaign encouraged 16 to 24-year-olds to spend more time in the shade when the sun is strong.

In addition, between 2010-11 and 2013-14 the Department provided Cancer Research UK with £459,000 to test innovative approaches to influence young people to take action to prevent melanoma and help men from lower socio-economic groups report early stage melanoma. This included the R UV Ugly campaign, to raise awareness of the dangers of sunbeds and the benefits of skin checks in young women. The Department also funded Cancer Research UK to produce a primary care skin cancer recognition toolkit and to run a sun protection tracking survey to continue to measure awareness of skin cancer and the risks in the general public.

We know that using sunbeds significantly raises the risk of skin cancer, particularly in younger people. Laws are in place to prevent under 18s from using sunbeds in commercial premises and businesses can be fined up to £20,000 for not complying. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing this.

Public Health England ran a local “Be Clear on Cancer” pilot campaign in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset from 16 June to 27 July 2014 to raise awareness of the signs of skin cancer. The campaign was aimed at people over the age of 50 and the key message was

“A change to a mole isn’t the only sign of skin cancer. If you notice any persistent or unusual changes to your skin, tell your doctor”.

The campaign leaflet also informed people how to avoid sunburn and reduce their chances of getting skin cancer.

This pilot was tested on a small, local scale first (using local radio, press, and outdoor advertising) to ensure that campaign messages are correct for the target audience and to assess the impact on national health service services. The results of the pilot are due in the coming months and will be evaluated before a decision is taken on whether the campaign will be extended to a wider, regional test.

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