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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Heatwave skin cancer warning
Poor application of sun screen could lead to increasing cases
With the UK set for a heatwave over the next two weeks it is more important than ever to apply suncream to minimise the risk of skin cancer.

With the sun beating down from a cloudless sky, many people might be forgiven for thinking that they haven't got a care in the world.

But careless behaviour on sunny days can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Exposure to the sun's ultra-violet rays damages the genetic material of the skin cells, and can lead to deadly forms of cancer.

Skin care
Try not to burn skin
Take special care of babies and children's skin
Avoid the sun in the middle of the day
Avoid sunbeds and sun lamps
Cover up in loose fitting clothes made from tightly woven fabric and wear a hat
It is absolutely essential that if you spend any length of time at all out in the summer sun, you use sunscreen to protect your skin.

Sara Hiom, a science information officer for the Cancer Research Campaign, told BBC News Online: "What must be stressed is that exposure to the sun causes damage to the skin that can lead to skin cancer, whatever the temperature.

"The hot days are dangerous inasmuch as they cause people to seek the outdoors and try to tan themselves.

"People should apply generous amounts of sun cream (factor 15 or above) and try to avoid the midday sun (from 12-2pm)."

Unfortunately, many people either use suncream too sparingly, or do not bother to use it at all.

Rapidly increasing

The result can be devastating. Skin cancer is one of the most rapidly increasing forms of cancer in the UK.

There are 40,000 cases of non-melanoma and more than 5,700 cases of melanoma each year.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Non-melanoma is rarely life-threatening.

Figures from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) show that malignant melanoma rates for men have gone up more than three times since 1971 and in women the rates have more than doubled.

Survival rates are getting better for skin cancer.

But because so many people are getting the disease the death rates have risen from 793 in 1979 to 1,476 in 1999 - an increase of 86%.

In both men and women, the percentage rise has been the greatest for melanoma of the trunk and upper limb.

Not only do people not use enough suncream, they also wear skimpy clothes that offer no protection from the UV rays of the sun.

The skin damage caused by the sun is cumulative and can date back to childhood.

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04 Jun 01 | Health
Skin cancer cases surge
15 Mar 00 | Health
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