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Half of Brits got sunburnt this year and many would do it again

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by Cancer Research UK | News

1 September 2010

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A NEW survey released today (Wednesday 1 September) reveals almost half of Brits (46 per cent) got sunburnt this year. Of those who got burnt, a third (32 per cent) admitted their motivation was to get a tan. And half of those who burnt whilst trying to get a tan would risk burning again next year.

The research – commissioned by Superdrug and Cancer Research UK as part of their joint campaign to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely this summer – highlights the worrying lengths sun-seeking Brits are prepared to go to in search of a tan.

Far from being a small price to pay for a tan, sunburn is a sign that your skin cells have been seriously damaged by too much sun. It is this damage that can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

Even the unpleasant short term side-effects of sunburn – such as red, peeling or blistering skin – haven’t put people off their search for the perfect tan. In fact, 34 per cent of those who admitted to getting sunburnt this year whilst trying to get a tan said that while they would be ‘a bit more careful’ next year, they would still be prepared to risk sunburn for a tan. And of those who got sunburnt, 39 per cent said they burned every year.

The most common place that people got burnt this year was on their face, with 40 per cent admitting they were left red-faced after spending too long in the sun. Getting too much sun can cause premature ageing, making skin look old and leathery before its time – which is surprising because many people seek a tan because they think it will make them look good. This was followed by arms (39 per cent), shoulders (37 per cent) and neck (36 per cent).

Martin Crisp, Superdrug superintendant pharmacist, said: “What’s particularly concerning is that people are setting out with the specific aim of getting sunburn because they see it as part of getting a tan. What they aren’t realising is that there is more going on in the skin than what you see on the surface and, while the sunburn and tan may fade, the damage does not. Put simply, the more time people spend in the sun, the more damage they are doing to their skin, and they should seriously ask themselves whether it’s a risk they’re prepared to take.”

The results also show that two in three people got sunburnt when they were not even trying to get a tan. 41 per cent of these said they didn’t realise the sun was strong enough to burn, while around a third admitted they didn’t take any steps to protect their skin.

Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, says, “Sunburn is a clear sign that your skin has been damaged in ways that can lead to skin cancer, a disease that’s affecting more and more people in the UK. While it’s important to enjoy the sun safely to get enough vitamin D, there are risks involved in long exposures. And these results indicate that people aren’t taking these risks seriously enough. Getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Whether at home or abroad, use shade, clothing and plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself.”

More than 10,300 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK every year, and almost 2,000 people die from it. Anyone can develop skin cancer but some people have a higher risk including those with fair skin, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn or a family history of skin cancer. Over the last twenty-five years, rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have risen faster than any other common cancer.

That is why Superdrug and Cancer Research UK are working together to encourage people to get to know their skin and how it normally reacts in the sun so they can protect themselves against sunburn. The message is simple – don’t let sunburn catch you out. Use shade, clothing and at least factor 15 sunscreen – the higher the better – applied generously and regularly to protect your skin.

With the British weather looking like it is on the up for the next week at least, Superdrug stores across the country are providing information and advice to customers about sun safety, The 200+ pharmacy stores will also be offering free sunscreen consultations showing how to apply sunscreen correctly. Stores have also been fundraising for Cancer Research UK as part of their summer campaign to raise awareness of the importance of being safe in the sun, and helping to fund vital research into skin cancer. Last weekend’s theme was Summer Fun & Sun in the outdoors, and was the fifth of six themed fundraising weekends held at stores this summer.


For further media information contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300