Hardcore sunbathers who plan to get burnt on the beach this summer will do so in the full knowledge that they are permanently damaging their skin – according to a survey* commissioned by Cancer Research UK.

In the survey of almost 400 sunbathers who said they were certain to burn, 90 per cent acknowledged that sunburn causes permanent skin damage.

The self-styled tanorexics who stop at nothing to get a holiday tan are also doubling their risk of skin cancer** – says the charity.

The survey also revealed that 40 per cent of those sunbathers prepared to risk their long term health to come home with damaged skin believed that getting sunburnt was all part of the tanning process.

Professor Lesley Rhodes, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist, said: “Getting sunburnt increases the risk of skin cancer in general. But the kind of sunbathing binges that happen when people go to much hotter climates and bake on the beach is particularly dangerous.

“This kind of short intense exposure to the sun, leading to burning, particularly increases the risk of malignant melanoma. And each year in Britain almost 2000 people die from this form of skin cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager Rebecca Russell also warned holiday-makers that sunbed sessions aimed at a pre-holiday base tan could be just as dangerous as getting sunburnt.

She said: “We know that sunbeds increase the risk of skin cancer. Anyone under 18 should never go on a sunbed. Nor should any adult with fair skin, lots of moles and freckles or a history of skin cancer.

“Holiday-makers can enjoy the sun safely by making sure they do not burn, spending time in the shade, covering up with loose long-sleeved clothing, a hat and sunglasses and using factor 15 + sunscreen.”


For media enquries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300, or the out of hours duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


  • The survey by BMRB Omnibus was conducted by telephone.
  • Research says that sunburn doubles the risk of melanoma. (References: Gandini et al. 2006. Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma II; Sun exposure; Elwood & Jopson. 2006. Melanoma and sun exposure: an overview of published studies.)

The SunSmart Messages:

  • Spend time in the shade between 11 and 3. The summer sun is most damaging to your skin in the middle of the day.
  • Make sure you never burn; sunburn can double your risk of skin cancer.
  • Aim to cover up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses. When the sun is at its peak sunscreen is not enough.
  • Remember to take extra care with children. Young skin is delicate. Keep babies out of the sun especially around midday.
  • Then use factor 15+ sunscreen. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply often.
  • ….Also report mole changes or unusual skin growths promptly to your doctor.

Find out more at www.sunsmart.org.uk.

SunSmart is the UK’s national skin cancer prevention campaign commissioned by the UK Health Departments and run by Cancer Research UK. The campaign focuses on those most at risk of skin cancer and the key target audience this year is holidaymakers.

  • Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK.
  • The number of skin cancer cases is increasing year on year. The main risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to sunlight. Up to 90% of skin cancers could be prevented by being SunSmart.
  • More than 75,000 new cases of skin cancer are registered each year in the UK. Some experts estimate the number of cases to be in excess of 100,000 as many cases are not reported.
  • Each year more than 1,800 people die from malignant melanoma.
  • Malignant melanoma rates have more than doubled over the past 20 years.
  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer for 20-39 year olds.
  • Over the last 20 years, malignant melanoma incidence has increased faster than any other cancer.
  • There are more skin cancer deaths in the UK than in Australia, even though Australia has more cases of the disease.