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J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2009 May;23(5):566-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2008.03017.x. Epub 2009 Jan 21.

A survey of the quality and accuracy of information leaflets about skin cancer and sun-protective behaviour available from UK general practices and community pharmacies.

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  • 1Division of Public Health and Primary Care, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, UK.



Better information promotes sun protection behaviour and is associated with earlier presentation and survival for malignant melanoma. Aim To assess the quality of patient information leaflets about skin cancer and sun-protective behaviour available from general practices and community pharmacies.


A structured review of patient information leaflets. Setting All community pharmacies and general practices in one Primary Care Trust were invited to supply leaflets.


Readability was assessed using the SMOG scoring system. Presentation and content were reviewed using the Ensuring Quality Information for Patients (EQIP) guidelines. Three consultant dermatologists assessed each leaflet for accuracy.


Thirty-one different patient information leaflets were returned. Thirteen (42%) were published in the previous 2 years, but 10 (32%) were over 5 years old. Nine (29%) leaflets were produced by the NHS or Health Education Authority, and 8 (27%) were linked to a commercial organization. One leaflet had readability in the primary education range (SMOG score = 6), and none with the recommended range for health education material (SMOG score < or = 5). Two leaflets (6%) were in the highest quartile of EQIP score for presentation and content. Five leaflets (17%) had a major inaccuracy such as over-reliance on sun screen products instead of shade and clothing.


Leaflets were of variable quality in presentation and content. All required a reading age higher than recommended. All leaflets with major inaccuracies had links with commercial organizations. This study raises important issues about the potential conflict between marketing and health messages in the way sun creams are promoted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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