British parents ignore skin cancer warnings

Over a third of parents in Great Britain admit their child has been sunburnt, despite the majority knowing that over-exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer.

These statistics have been released by Cancer Research UK and Boots, on the day that the charity launches its Kids Cook Quick poster, aimed at parents and carers of young children. This also marks the start of Sun Awareness Week (May 10 – 16 2004).

The poster, created for Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign, has been designed to highlight how quickly children's skin can burn in the sun. It features the slogan Kids Cook Quick along with a picture of two sunburnt children sitting on the beach.

The poster is being sent to 19,000 nurseries and all GP surgeries, as well as being displayed in Boots pharmacies nationally.

Sara Hiom, co-ordinator of Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign says, "This poster has been created to help remind parents to protect their children.

"Our survey shows that just over three-quarters of parents know that it's never OK for a child to go red in the sun, but they may not always realise that young skin can burn very quickly, in as little as ten minutes. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we can be caught out.

"We hope the Kids Cook Quick slogan will stick in parents' minds over the summer and remind them to make sure their children are properly protected whenever they are in the sun, by following the SunSmart code.

"This means seeking shade in the middle of the day, covering up with a hat, t-shirt and sunglasses, as well as using sunscreen that is factor 15 or higher."

The national survey*, commissioned by Cancer Research UK and Boots, who are supporting the SunSmart campaign, also reveals that 41 per cent of parents like to see their children with a tan, with the vast majority of these believing that it makes them look more healthy. This is despite high-profile warnings that a suntan is a sign of UV skin damage.

Children's skin is much more delicate than adults' and research shows that sunburn in childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

Dr Catherine Harwood, consultant dermatologist for Cancer Research UK comments, "As children have much more opportunity to play and take part in sports and other outdoor activities, they spend far more time in the sun than adults. Babies' and toddlers' skin is particularly susceptible as their skin is thinner and produces less protective pigment.

"We get around 80% of our exposure to the sun before the age of 21. So it is vital that parents are aware of the dangers and know how to protect their children properly."

*Survey conducted by NOP World over the telephone between 23rd – 25th April 2004, amongst 228 adults aged 16+ who are parents of a child aged between 6 months and 12 years old. Weighting was applied to the data to bring it in line with national profiles.

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