Cost of sunscreen could be increasing risk of skin cancer, charity suggests

Survey indicates people aren’t using sunblock because it’s too expensive. By Katie Wright.

Katie Wright
Monday 15 May 2023 07:00 BST
New research suggests sunscreen is prohibitively expensive (Alamy/PA)
New research suggests sunscreen is prohibitively expensive (Alamy/PA)

The cost of sunscreen could be contributing to the rise in skin cancer cases in the UK, a charity suggests.

A survey from Melanoma Focus found that 50% of people think sunblock is too expensive, with 67% saying they would use it more if it was cheaper and 10% saying they don’t use it at all because of the cost.

The survey also found that most British people (58%) can’t identify all the signs of melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma Focus is calling for the government to cut VAT on high-factor sunscreens to reduce the cost and make them more accessible to everyone.

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer and the vast majority of cases (86%) are preventable.

There are around 16,700 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, according to Cancer Research UK. Over the last decade, incidence rates have increased by 32%, and are projected to rise by another 9% by 2040.

Around 4,000 cases of melanoma in England are linked with lower deprivation.

“Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the deadliest form of skin cancer,” said Susanna Daniels, CEO of Melanoma Focus.

“Wearing a high SPF sunscreen is a hugely important safety measure for protecting against it.

“We know that people are experiencing increasing pressures on their finances at the moment but, with skin cancer rates on the rise, the use of sunscreen should be a high priority.”

Removing VAT on sun protection products would be “a cost-effective way to cut the overall incidence of skin cancer and could help save lives”, she added.

Michelle Richardson, 49, from Petersfield, Hampshire, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2018 after noticing an itchy mole on her back.

She had an operation to remove the mole, but 18 months later a scan found the melanoma had spread throughout her body including in her spine, lungs, spleen and brain.

“I had immunotherapy treatment for two years and I’m currently in remission and hope it stays that way for as long as possible,” Richardson says.

“Sunscreen shouldn’t be a luxury product. It’s essential for protecting the health of the nation so I’m fully supportive of the proposed cut to VAT.

“Treatment for melanoma costs the NHS a fortune, so a VAT cut to the thing that can prevent it happening in the first place makes sense financially as well as morally.”

MP Amy Callaghan, who is supporting the campaign, said: “More people wearing sunscreen means fewer people getting melanoma.

“But when 52% of people in my constituency can’t afford to turn on the heating, it’s unlikely they’ll take on extra expenses like sunscreen.

“That’s why we must make sunscreen more affordable by removing VAT.”

Melanoma Focus also wants to raise awareness about the early signs of skin cancer.

“We’d also urge people to make themselves aware of melanoma symptoms and seek medical help if they notice anything suspicious, particularly any changes to a mole or lesion,” Daniels said.

“Early detection leads to a higher cure rate and more treatment options.”

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