Research Article| Volume 65, ISSUE 10, P1384-1389, October 2012

Sun protection – Do we know enough?

Published:February 10, 2012DOI:



      Sun protection, particularly the appropriate use of sunscreens is an important modifiable risk factor in the prevention of skin cancers. Our aim was to assess the current knowledge levels regarding sun protection, across plastic surgeons in the UK.


      A 12-point questionnaire based on the points contained in the patient information packs on sun protection produced by the British Association of Dermatology was circulated electronically amongst 551 BAPRAS members. We received 73 responses (13.3%). Questions were formulated around the basic information patients would expect to receive from a skin cancer specialist at the time of the diagnosis.


      On average, participants could answer only 52.4% of the questions correctly. Only 9.7% (95% CI 3–17) of participants could accurately quantify the role of UV exposure in causation of melanoma. A total of 37.5% correctly identified the duration of action of sunscreen to be 3–4 h. Half of the participants were not aware that geographical conditions like altitude and latitude, as well as shade, could alter sun protection. A similar number could not answer questions related to the protective action of clothing.


      As principal stakeholders in the treatment and outcomes of skin cancer patients, plastic surgeons could be at the forefront of influencing patients’ behaviour regarding sun protection measures. The results demonstrate a need for better awareness and education regarding the knowledge of sunscreens and UV protection. Improved education would lead to health benefits for patients and their relatives and influence the primary prevention of this enlarging health issue of skin cancer.


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