Findings presented at the 31st European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress in Milan reveal that myths about the safety of sun exposure remain common in the European population.
Survey results from a poll of 17,000 people from 17 countries show that eight in 10 Europeans believe tans are attractive and nearly three-quarters (73%) say that tans are healthy.
The survey was conducted by La Roche-Posay Laboratoires and the global market research group Ipsos.
According to a press release, other persistent myths identified by the survey included believing sun protection was not needed in cloudy weather and that sunscreen is unnecessary for individuals who already have a tan.
People surveyed from non-European countries, including North and South America, Africa, Oceania, and Asia, were slightly less enthusiastic about suntans than Europeans, with 67% saying a tan was attractive and 59% believing a tan was healthy.
Knowledge of skin aging risks as a consequence of sun exposure was high, with 92% of European respondents saying they were aware of the risks (86% in nations outside of Europe). However, 84% of Europeans and 79% of those from outside of Europe said they did not protect themselves from the sun year-round.
Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Prof. Thierry Passeron stated in a press release: “This research shows just how entrenched the “healthy” suntan myth is—even in those who have already suffered sun damage or developed skin cancer.”
Prof. Passeron is Professor and Chair of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Nice.
“We must drive awareness of the damage to skin cells caused by exposure to the sun, which can lead to photoaging and skin cancer. This is particularly important in Europe where sun protection appears most inadequate compared to other countries,” said Prof. Passeron.
The survey also revealed that only 56% of Europeans know sun protection is useful when the weather is overcast (vs 64% outside of Europe), and one in four (24%) thought it was safe to go outside without sun protection when they were already tanned (vs 21% outside of Europe).
Only one in 10 Europeans said they routinely or often used all forms of sun protection, such as applying sunscreen, staying in the shade and wearing a hat and protective clothing all year round, compared to 14% among those from outside of Europe.