While public awareness in Israel of the danger of exposure to the sun is among the highest in the world at 92 percent, only 15% of the women and 11.3% of the men polled said they had actually gone for a skin check by a dermatologist, according to a comparative international survey released on Sunday by the Israel Cancer Association (ICA). The highest rate of awareness is in Australia and New Zealand (96%), whose "ozone hole" increases the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. There, about a third of the population have gone for skin examinations. The ICA released the information at the 12th International Conference on Skin Cancer held in Tel Aviv and announced that Sunday, May 10 to Friday, May 15 will be National Skin Cancer Awareness Week, when 300 clinics around the country will offer free skin examinations by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, no matter to what health fund one belongs. The list is available at www.cancer.org.il or by calling 1-800-599-995 any time. Free printed information material on skin cancer can also be ordered. ICA director-general Miri Ziv said that since the organization began its Skin Cancer Awareness Week 18 years ago, the public's understanding of the risks of skin lesions and the need to protect oneself from exposure to the sun - especially during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. - have greatly increased. As a result, detection of the various types of skin cancer in their early stages had greatly increased the rate of successful treatment. However, more needed to be done, she said. A broad-brimmed hat and long-sleeved light clothing should be worn if one has to be exposed to sun, and a sunscreen should be applied to exposed skin regularly. But it is best to spend as much time as possible in the shade, the ICA says. The organization's recent survey of 1,000 Israelis over the age of 18 (a representative sample of the population) found that 26.6% of them admitted to having suffered sunburn during the previous 12 months, with 72.2% saying they had not. Those most likely to have had a sunburn were aged 18 to 27, followed by those aged 30 to 44. Talia Binyamini, a 34-year-old hi-tech marketing executive who lives in Givatayim, told her personal story, in which she admitted that her hectic work habits caused her to ignore her health. When her partner noticed a dark spot on the back of her leg near the heel, she laughed it off and refused to have it checked by a dermatologist. When finally she visited a hair-removal expert to get an estimate, she asked about the spot. He told her that it had to be removed within 24 hours. She waited two weeks to go to her health fund, where the spot - in an early phase of malignancy - was removed in less than a minute and found to be skin cancer. It was checked again later and found not to have returned. "It could have easily ended differently," Binyamini admitted. "If it had depended on me, it could have very well been. One can see that I am here so that my good luck will influence others to be wise. "Work is important - but your health is very often in your hands. And also be aware of your partners, your family and friends. Tell them if you see a suspicious spot on the skin. They will thank you."