Over seven million people in Europe are estimated to have skin cancer, despite the ‘majority of cases’ being preventable, according to a new European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) survey presented at EADV’s Spring Symposium.

It shows that 1.71% of the adult European general population reported having skin cancer. This is despite skin cancer being the most preventable cancer, since most is caused by damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The survey data also show that a mole check or skin cancer screening was the main reason for patients consulting a dermatologist over the past 12 months, with over a fifth (22.3%) of appointments made with a skin specialist being to check a mole or lesion.

The findings from the EADV’s Burden of Skin Disease (BOSD) survey of 44,689 adults from 27 countries indicate the need for an “expansion in skin cancer education across Europe to help the population make safer skin choices,” according to leading dermatologists at the organisation.

Of the people surveyed, 0.6% reported a diagnosis of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, keratinocyte carcinomas, which include basel cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are by far the most widespread of all cancers and the most rapidly increasing with incidence expected to rise by over 40% until 2040.

More action needed to prevent skin cancer

Marie-Aleth Richard, Professor at the University Hospital of La Timone, Marseilles and the EADV Board Member leading the survey said the results “demonstrate the need for action to be taken to prevent skin cancer, which has a good prognosis if caught early but is perceived by the population as a serious and life-threatening condition.”

She added: "This underscores the need for improved understanding, education and awareness about skin cancer and implementing evidence-based interventions as part of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.”

“Skin cancer is part of the 40% of cancers that are preventable and whose incidence we could considerably reduce if we provided more consistent and widespread education to the population.

“This should be complementary to an adequate policy and regulatory framework to reduce the incidence of skin cancer and prevent it becoming a significant challenge to health systems.”

Almost half of people surveyed (46.6%) who reported at least one skin cancer said they felt ‘moderately or extremely anxious and depressed’, with anxiety and fear about surgical scars, death and metastasis being the main reason for an alteration in quality of life.

Whilst nearly half of patients said there was a negative impact on their personal life, almost three in five said they were impacted in their professional life. The biggest result was a change in working hours or altering professional activity but 22.6% said they did not get a hoped-for job and 31.3% refused a professional offer.

The EADV is now calling for the improved registration of skin cancer cases across Europe to help them detect groups most at risk and help public health programmes priorities.