A doctor examines a woman for signs of skin cancer / Getty Images

Worrying poll reveals public ignorance over the dangers of the disease

Four in ten people do not think skin cancer in deadly, a poll has revealed, and over half of people do not think the most deadly form of the cancer can spread.

The public ‘ignorance’ over the danger of skin cancer has left officials concerned about the lack of understanding over the disease, which affects 100,000 people each year.

Only a third of people (36 per cent) polled by the British Skin Foundation (BSF) said they checked their skin for moles and changes that can indicate skin cancer, while the same number said they did not know what they were looking for.

Just a quarter of the 5,000 people surveyed would get a mole checked by their GP straight away if they noticed a change, while one in ten would wait for it to get noticeably worse before seeking medical attention.

More than a third were unaware that skin cancer can appear on any part of the body - including under nails and the soles of feet - while nearly a fifth were unaware that people of all skin types can get skin cancer.

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Actor Hugh Jackman was diagnosed with skin cancer last year

Dr Shergill said: "If skin cancer is caught early, it is usually treatable - but unfortunately, it is very difficult to treat once it has spread to other parts of the body.

"Tragically, there is currently no treatment that will cure malignant melanoma once it has spread beyond its original site.

"While certain behaviours, like use of sun beds and not protecting your skin while in the sun, can increase the risk, skin cancer can affect anyone and isn't always a result of excessive sun exposure.

"It is a complex and deadly disease that we still don't fully understand so we desperately need more research to help us understand the condition further."

The BSF has launched a skin cancer research fundraising campaign called It Takes 7.

Additional reporting by Press Association