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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Heading for the sunshine can be a dangerous pursuit"
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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
UK tans on despite danger

Tanning is a priority for many holidaymakers
Many Britons travelling abroad on holiday feel that getting a good tan is important - despite the risks of cancer, a survey suggests.

Cancer: the facts
People with light skin who are exposed to strong sunlight for only a brief period each year are at a higher risk of developing malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, say scientists.

However, a survey commissioned by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund found that for 40% of holidaymakers, going brown is a priority.

And one in five UK people don't worry about using sunscreens or covering up.

Approximately 25% of those surveyed also thought that the dangers of skin cancer were exaggerated.

There are some 4,000 new cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed in the UK each year.

This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, as it is more likely to spread and attack other parts of the body.

However, if caught early, it is treatable with surgery and radiotherapy.

There are many more cases of non-melanoma skin cancers - but these are hardly ever fatal, and can normally be removed.

A spokesman for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund said: "Obviously, people enjoy being in the sun, and any message which means they have to cut down is not going to be welcome.

"However, we're not saying that people should stay out of the sun completely, but just that people should try to avoid the sun when it is at its strongest."

Professor Anthony Quinn, a consultant dermatologist at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "These findings are quite worrying - a suntan shows that the skin is being damaged by too much sunlight, and is trying to protect itself.

'Whole year's worth'

"The skin can easily be sunburned if it is not protected from the sun, and this damage could increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

"A two-week Mediterranean holiday gives the equivalent of a whole year's sun exposure in the UK."

People with fair hair, red hair, and freckles are most at risk from over-exposure to sunlight.

Experts advise that, in hotter climes, direct sunlight should be avoided between 1100 and 1500, and holidaymakers should cover up with loose clothing and a hat.

It is also recommended that sunscreens of at least protection rating 15 are used.

However, some doctors believe that sunscreens can lull people into a false sense of security, as they do not protect from every kind of rays from the sun.

Other experts say that people should not go overboard and completely avoid sunshine - some sunlight is important to health, helping the body produce a key vitamin, and helping prevent depression in some circumstances.

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See also:

15 Jan 99 | Health
Sunscreen cancer risk
01 Feb 99 | Health
Skin cancer gene breakthrough
03 Mar 99 | Health
Warning over sunbeds
17 Mar 00 | C-D
Skin cancers
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