More than 50 per cent of people who suffered sunburn last summer were burnt while at home in the UK, according to a Cancer Research UK survey released today as Bank Holiday temperatures are expected to soar.

In a survey of nearly 4,000 people around one in five people were burnt during the summer.

Of these people, 55 per cent suffered sunburn in the UK and 54 per cent suffered sunburn abroad.

And almost 10 per cent of people who got sunburnt, were burnt both in the UK and abroad.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Sun exposure leading to sunburn is the major cause of melanoma – a potentially fatal form of skin cancer – so it’s extremely worrying to see that so many people are getting burnt at home in the UK.

“The British weather causes a problem in this country. For a lot of the time we see no sun and when it does come out people want to make the most of it and may not take as much care to avoid burning as they should.

“Even though the sun’s rays are more intense the closer you get to the equator we still need to take care in the UK. UV rays are invisible and can’t be felt on the skin but can damage skin cells leading to sunburn and an increased risk of skin cancer. So even if it’s a breezy summer day when it may not feel as warm – the potential for sunburn is still there.

“Importantly people need to know their skin. This means understanding your own skin type and knowing how likely you are to burn. Everyone is different and you’re most at risk from melanoma if you have fair skin, red hair, lots of freckles, moles or a family history of the disease.

“But people do need to spend some time in the sun as vitamin D is important for good health. Everyone can make enough vitamin D from short periods of exposure to the summer sun – and this is always less than the time it takes to burn.”

The survey also reported that 70 per cent of people said that using sunbeds is not safer than sun tanning.

Sarah Woolnough, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s encouraging to see that the majority of people understand that using a sunbed is not a safer way to tan. The intensity of some UV rays from sunbeds can be 10-15 times higher than the midday sun. Too much UV can damage the DNA in our skin cells. This can mean cells start growing out of control which, over time, can lead to skin cancer.

“Cancer Research UK is calling to ban under 18s using sunbeds, close salons that aren’t supervised by trained staff and ensure information about the risks of using sunbeds is given to all customers.”


For media enquiries please contact the press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.


The survey was carried out face-to-face during October 2008 by the British Market Research Bureau for Cancer Research UK.

For more information about perceptions of risk click here

3,947 people were asked:

Q1. Last summer, did you get sunburnt at all?

22% of people got sunburnt last summer, (M 23%, F22%) (W 24% NW 6%) (M15-24 34%, F 15-24 38%)

Q2. The 886 people who said Yes to last summer, did you get sunburnt at all. Did you get sunburnt in UK? and Did you get sunburnt abroad ?

55% of those with sunburn suffered in UK, (M 54%, F 57%), (W 56%, NW 24%) (15-24 52%, 65+ 61%). 54% of those with sunburn suffered abroad, (M 56%, 52% F) (W 54%, NW 76%) (15-24 60%, 65+ 48%). Just over 10% of people who got sunburnt last summer, were sunburnt in both UK and abroad.

Q3. Do you agree or disagree “Sunbed tanning is safer than sun tanning”

70% disagreed with “Sunbed tanning is safer than sun tanning”. A greater proportion of females than males disagreed, and a greater proportion of ethnic whites than non-whites disagreed. Almost a third (32%) of ethnic non-whites neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. Over two thirds (70%) disagreed, either strongly (54%) or slightly (15%). (M 66% F 73%) (W 71%, NW 51%) Less than 1 in 10 (8%) agreed either slightly (6%) or strongly (2%). (M 9%, F 7%) (W 8%, NW 13%)

Agreed: Flat 8% or 9% across social groups, no strong trend with age


In Scotland sunbed legislation has been passed by the Scottish Parliament and will be implemented at the end of the year which Cancer Research UK welcomes.