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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
Denim 'best protection from sun'
Woman in a jumper
This summer's way of keeping safe in the sun?
As the UK heads for yet another hot summer, scientists say thick fabrics such as denim and wool offer the best protection against the sun's rays.

Traditional thinner summer fabrics such as cotton and linen are much less effective, they say.

The Swiss researchers reviewed 500 studies from around the world on how people protect their skin.

Writing in a study published online by the Lancet, they say using sunscreen is the least effective option.

UK cancer experts agreed sunscreen should be the "last line of defence".

Of course it can't be recommended to wear woollen fabrics on the beach
Dr Stephen Lautenshlager, researcher

The team from the Triemli Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland, said wearing clothes which cover the skin - plus hats and staying out of the sun - was the best method of protection.

But, as well as linen and cotton being less effective, light-coloured fabrics and those that are wet also offer low levels of protection.

Dr Stephen Lautenshlager, who led the research, told the BBC: "Of course it can't be recommended to wear woollen fabrics on the beach.

"But it should be kept in mind that not every shirt blocks the UV radiation sufficiently."

'Unacceptable solution'

Writing in the Lancet, the team led by Dr Lautenshlager, say that, while covering up and staying out of the sun may well be the best option, it is "deemed to be unacceptable in our global, outdoor society".

"Sunscreens could become the predominant mode of sun protection for various societal reasons, for example healthiness of a tan, relaxation in the sun."

Sunscreen should not be used to prolong time spent soaking up rays

They advise that when sunscreen is used the most important factor for its effectiveness is the application of a "liberal quantity".

But they warn that people tend not to apply sunscreen properly, only putting it on once they have already been exposed to the sun and applying too thin a layer.

And they add: "Sunscreens should not be abused in an attempt to increase time in the sun to a maximum."

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's senior science information officer, said: "This study confirms what we already know.

"Our SunSmart Campaign has always said that sunscreen is the last line of defence in protecting skin against the sun's harmful rays.

"Many people do not use sunscreen properly and do not reapply it regularly and after swimming.

"Some believe sunscreen is an invisible shield that will give them carte blanche to lie out in the sun all day."

Cancer Research UK advise staying in the shade when the sun is hottest - between 11am and 3pm - plus covering up with a T-shirt, hat, and sunglasses and using a factor 15 plus sunscreen.

Sunbathers react to the new advice

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