Teenagers avoid using sunscreen to get a tan

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Nearly two thirds of young people aged 13-24 have avoided using sunscreen in order to get a better tan, according to research released this week by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

The poll, conducted by the charity to mark the launch of its annual sun safety campaign, Shunburn, also revealed that 90 per cent of young people have been sunburnt before, with over a third admitting they have been burnt more than five times.

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Worryingly, almost one in ten 13-24 year olds never wear sunscreen, in order to get a better tan.

In the south east of England, 61 per cent of young people have avoided putting sunscreen on in order to get a better tan and just 9 per cent have never been sunburnt in their life.

The charity says the media and parents are playing a positive role in educating young people about sun safety, with the poll revealing that over a third of 13-24 year olds have become more aware of sun protection since their parents gave them advice about protecting their skin, while more than a quarter have become more aware having read magazines and watched the news where these issues have been discussed.

A charity spokesperson said, “This is encouraging, but the latest statistics on skin cancer show that continuing to increasing awareness and promoting positive behaviour in the sun is more important than ever.

“More than two young adults aged 15-34 are diagnosed every day in the UK, and it is the second most common cancer in this age group.

“Over the last 30 years, incidences of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, have risen faster than any of the current ten most common cancers.

“Around 37 people are diagnosed every day in the UK, a total of 13,300 a year. In the 15 to 24 age group it is the third most common cancer in females and the sixth most common in males across the UK.”

Teenage Cancer Trust’s research showed that an unlucky 13 per cent of young people became more aware of the dangers of sun damage after a family member or friend suffered from skin cancer.

This is something Jake Quickenden, musician and I’m a Celebrity star, can relate to. His mother used to sunbathe frequently before she was diagnosed with skin cancer 15 years ago.

Then, a few years later he lost his younger brother and father to the same type of bone cancer. The experience has completely changed the way Jake views protecting his health.

He is backing the Shunburn campaign to make sure other youngsters change their behaviour toward the sun.

Jake said, “When my mum was diagnosed with skin cancer, it really scared both of us, and my attitude towards the sun completely changed. No one expects to hear that kind of news, and considering both my brother and dad died of bone cancer it was a huge shock.

“When I was offered the chance to make a difference and spread the word about sun safety with Teenage Cancer Trust, I had to be involved. It takes just a few minutes to apply sunscreen or cover up but those few moments could save someone from getting skin cancer, which is life-changing.”

Jake met with 25-year-old skin cancer survivor and secondary school teacher, Katie Miller, to speak about the risks of sun exposure and create a short film. This was launched on social media and will be shown in schools across the UK as part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s brand new sun safety lesson plan.

Katie was just 24 when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. She noticed a small spot on her leg when she was applying moisturiser, but she thought nothing of it until it started to grow.

Katie said, “I want to use my experience of skin cancer to encourage other young people to change their behaviour. I never believed you could get skin cancer at such a young age, so when I was diagnosed I was really shocked and scared. I used to think having a tan was important, but now I know it just isn’t worth it.”

Iona Stoddart at the Teenage Cancer Trust said:,“Raising awareness of skin cancer is so important, because it is on the rise across the UK. We aren’t asking people to avoid the sun entirely, but to take precautions and avoid getting burnt.

“Repeated damage to the skin can cause problems long term and can increase someone’s risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.”

Shunburn is Teenage Cancer Trust’s annual sun safety campaign aimed at 13-24 year olds. It educates them about the harm sunburn can do to their skin and the steps they can take to avoid burning. It also highlights that it’s the damage done to the skin when young that could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.

Teenage Cancer Trust is encouraging young people to follow these five key sun safety steps:

* Stay out of the sun when it’s at its strongest between 11am and 3pm

* Cover your skin so it’s not exposed to the sun

* Wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and face

* Apply generous amounts of sunscreen at least SPF 30 to clean, dry skin before going in the sun and remember to reapply if you go in water

* Wear sunglasses to protected your eyes

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