Research shows how denial contributes to skin cancer
incidence and mortality rates

  • 88% of people worldwide understand sun exposure increases risk of skin cancer, but only 18% always protect themselves from the sun1
  • Half of patients delay seeking treatment for three to six months on seeing signs of skin cancer2

As the UK member of the Global Coalition, Melanoma UK is proudly supporting the 2019 Skin Cancer Campaign, DENIAL.

Three leading organisations have come together to launch a global public awareness campaign in the fight against skin cancer.

In ‘Conquering denial: ensuring skin cancer remains treatable not terminal’ the Melanoma Research Foundation, the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy and Euromelanoma identify three stages of denial relating to skin cancer – denial about the need for sun protection; denial about symptoms; and denial about the need for ongoing care.The white paper summarises findings from third-party research, original research into patient behaviour following a survey of more than 1,300 dermatologists worldwide, and commentary from leading psychologists.

Denial about the need for sun protection was found to be widespread. In a survey of 20,000 people in 23 countries by IPSOS for La Roche-Posay1, 88% agreed a lack of sun protection increases the risk of skin cancer, but only 18% said they always protect themselves from the sun. 

“Melanoma is a cancer that can be prevented so we and many other charities and healthcare organisations have done a lot of work to educate people about how to protect themselves. It is concerning that while people recognise and understand the link between the sun and skin cancer, they are not taking consistent action to safeguard their health.

We need to better understand this denial, so that wearing sun protection becomes part of people’s daily routines,” said Kyleigh LiPira, CEO of the Melanoma Research Foundation.

Denial extends to when patients identify possible symptoms of skin cancer. A survey of 1,300 dermatologists worldwide found nearly half (49%) of patients delay seeking advice for between three and six months, 39% between seven and 12 months and 14% over a year2.

Globally, around 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year3. These figures, when combined with the findings of the survey, suggest that each year nearly 1.5 million patients delay consulting a medical professional when they first identify signs of cancer.

The dermatologists believed that 54%2 of 61,680 deaths4 from melanoma skin cancer globally could have been prevented if the patient had sought prompt medical advice.

“For most people, the word cancer has negative associations. So, while some people will take steps to get the symptoms of melanoma checked and treated, others are so afraid that they deny its very existence. This is worrying because while melanoma can be easily treated if caught early, the longer symptoms of melanoma are ignored the more they are putting their life in danger.” 

Kyleigh LiPira concluded: “We have identified five steps that need to be taken to equip the medical community to identify the scale of the problem, educate the public and provide a more holistic approach to patient care. An approach that recognises patients need both physical and psychological support if they are to overcome skin cancer denial. Too many people are dying from an illness that could be prevented and that needs to stop – now.”

The publication of ‘Conquering denial: ensuring skin cancer remains treatable not terminal’ coincides with the launch of a public awareness campaign by the Melanoma Research Foundation, Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy and Euromelanoma.

The campaign will run in the US, South America and Asia, as well as 33 countries across Europe, and consists of leaflet distribution, posters and social media activity.

 To download the DENIAL white paper and learn how to spot the signs of skin cancer click here.


1 Skin cancer prevention Report: IPSOS for La Roche-Posay

2 Survey of 1,300 dermatologists worldwide: Euromelanoma and Melanoma Research Foundation

3 Skin Cancer FAQ: World Health Organisation

4 How many people in the world die from cancer? Our World in Data