Many get sunburned even with sunscreen

People urged to ensure 100% coverage
  • Deborah Condon

Most adults have experienced sunburn even on occasions when they have applied sunscreen, a new survey has found.

According to the findings, 93% of adults have experienced sunburn, while 73% burned somewhere on their body despite applying sunscreen.

The survey was carried out by Breakthrough Cancer Research, an Irish medical research charity. It has launched a new national awareness campaign, 'Let's get to 100% together', which highlights the importance of protecting skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage 100% of the time.

Over 11,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland every year and this country has the highest mortality rate from melanoma - the most deadly form of skin cancer - in Europe.

The new campaign is urging people to increase their UV awareness and to ensure that when applying sunscreen, they achieve 100% coverage.

Using UV technology, it is highlighting hard-to-reach and often missed areas on the skin, that often result in patch burning. These include the back of the neck, tip of the nose and lower legs. A video showing these can be viewed here.

The charity is also emphasising that sunscreen should be the last line of defence against skin cancer, after staying in the shade, covering up and wearing sunglasses and hats.

Its survey found that 72% of people do not know the UV index at which they should wear sunscreen and only 34% wear it on their face every day. Some 48% wear it on their face when it is sunny, but just 0.1 % wear it when it is cloudy.

The survey also noted that other sun protection behaviours were low, with just 13% of people always wearing a hat when sunny, 15% always seeking shade and 25% always wearing sunglasses.

Furthermore, the survey found that 40% of people have areas of their skin that they are worried about, yet less than half of these - 45% - have sought medical advice.

"Our survey had some very worrying results about understanding around prevention and a lack of awareness about UV in Ireland. Many were unaware that UV radiation, which is omitted naturally from the sun and is the main risk factor for skin cancers, is not related to heat and can even penetrate through cloud," explained Breakthrough Cancer Research CEO, Orla Dolan.

The campaign is putting a particular focus on those considered most at risk, such as people who spend a lot of time outdoors and sporty people.

"You might think you're being healthy when you're outdoors and being active, but you're putting yourself in danger if you don't cover up and have sunscreen applied correctly. Children and those with pale or fair skin and blue eyes are also high risk and need to take extra precaution," Ms Dolan noted.

Meanwhile, in addition to raising awareness about the need for 100% protection against the sun's dangerous rays, the charity also highlighted that it is continuing to fund pioneering research into new treatments that can help to improve the survival outcomes for those who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

This week, it has given the green light to an exciting new skin cancer research project, which could see the replacement of chemotherapy with calcium.

The novel chemotherapy-free non-surgical treatment for skin cancers could be available for patients in a clinical trial, initially in Cork, as early as November.

The hope is that this non-toxic, but highly effective treatment, can be delivered to outpatients.

However, the charity needs to raise €100,000 to continue to fund this new life-saving research. It is calling on donations from the public to help with this. You can donate directly at

Mr James Clover, a consultant plastic surgeon in University College Cork and Cork University Hospital, is leading the research to move treatments to the next stage by replacing chemotherapy with calcium.

"New treatments like these do not happen overnight and must go through a robust testing process to ensure it is both safe and effective before it ever reaches a patient. We are sincerely grateful for the support of the public and look forward to the next stages of this research, and less invasive ways to help patients with a variety of skin cancers," he said.

For more information on this campaign, click here.


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