HEALTHY LIVING: Taking care in the sun

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IT may not feel like it - but summer is here.

After a truly miserable spring and the third-wettest June in Sheffield since records began, tanning may seem like a distant dream.

But with the school holidays just three weeks away, people are getting holidays booked and preparing to jet off in search of some sun.

And now doctors in Sheffield are reminding people not to forget the suncream when they pack their bags.

Because for many people, tanning lotion is not the first thing they think about when the sun comes out.

More than a third of Brits don’t wear any form of sun protection on home soil, according to a recent survey by St Tropez. And a fifth of the population incorrectly believe that you need to burn your skin to get a tan.

It seems some people just do not see the light when it comes to basic sun safety.

With one in 60 UK residents getting some kind of skin cancer during their lifetime - and the disease killing more than 2,000 a year - the potential seriousness of tanning cannot be overstated.

Dr Helen Story, a GP at Park Health Centre on Duke Street, Sheffield, said: “We want to get the message across to people that, unlike the tan itself, the effects don’t necessarily fade with time.

“There is a down side to exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the list includes wrinkles, prematurely aging skin and, in some cases, even skin cancer.”

There are two main types of skin cancer, malignant melanoma - the most serious kind - and non-melanoma.

More than 30 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day and a history of sunburn doubles the risk of getting skin cancer.

Dr Story said: “Tans are still associated with beauty and status, to an extent.

“Many will visit a tanning booth ahead of a special event like a wedding, while the benchmark of a good holiday still tends to be how brown our skin is on our return.

“Some people will even visit a sunbed to get the ‘sun-kissed’ look before jetting off to much hotter climes and exposing their skin to more potentially harmful rays.

“But while people may feel ‘more attractive’ with a tan, the dangers of sunbathing and excessive sunbed use need to be emphasised, no matter what your age or skin type is.”

She added: “We want people to enjoy their holidays whether at home or abroad, but would also advise and remind them that a tan isn’t the be all and end all of a successful summer.”

Youngsters are particularly at risk from sunburn and Cancer Research UK are leading a campaign this summer to get parents to take the dangers seriously.

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK’s Yorkshire spokeswoman, said: “Young skin is particularly delicate and vulnerable to UV damage, so it’s vital that children learn how to protect themselves in the sun at an early age.”

The charity has teamed up with Nivea Sun to run a competition for primary school pupils to design a sun safety awareness programme.

Children can win playground equipment, parasols and games worth over £500 for their schools.

Youngsters are being asked to design a ‘sunwise’ hat for their ‘hero’, explaining who their hero is and why they need the hat.

Their hero could be a fictional character or a real person or pet.

Emily Marcham at Nivea Sun said: “We have been running our sun safety schools campaign for over 15 years, and we’re really pleased to be working with Cancer Research UK this year.

“We hope teachers and children alike will get behind the competition and send us some great entries - the wackier the better!”

To find out more about the competition visit Entries must be submitted by this Friday, July 6.