Young people * Healthy living * Travel health

Nearly half of UK adults were sunburnt this year

Nearly half of UK adults were sunburnt this year Many happy to risk skin damage in search of a tan

Sunburn is your body's way of alerting you that your skin is being damaged by too much exposure to sunlight. Yet nearly half of all UK adults were sunburnt this year, according to a new survey, with a third of these cases being in people who were trying to get a tan.

Even the unpleasant short term side-effects of sunburn – such as red, peeling or blistering skin – haven't put people off their search for the perfect tan. In fact, 34 per cent of those who admitted to getting sunburnt this year while trying to get a tan said that while they would be ‘a bit more careful’ next year, they would still be prepared to risk sunburn for a tan. And of those who got sunburnt, 39 per cent said they burned every year.

But burnt skin can increase your chances of getting skin cancer in later life. Over the last twenty-five years, rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have risen faster than any other common cancer, with 10,300 cases of malignant melanoma being diagnosed every year, and almost 2,000 people dying from it.

The survey also found that despite Britain's reputation as a rainy and miserable place to spend your summer, two in three people got sunburnt when they were not even trying to get a tan. Of these, 41 per cent said they did not realise the sun was strong enough to burn, while around a third admitted they did not take any steps to protect their skin.

Another downside of too much sun exposure is that it can speed up the visible signs of ageing, making skin look old and leathery before its time. This is especially bad news for those who were burnt on the face - which was the largest group in the survey at 40%. This was followed by arms (39 per cent), shoulders (37 per cent) and neck (36 per cent).

Commenting on the survey results, Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Sunburn is a clear sign that your skin has been damaged in ways that can lead to skin cancer, a disease that’s affecting more and more people in the UK. While it’s important to enjoy the sun safely to get enough vitamin D, there are risks involved in long exposures. And these results indicate that people aren't taking these risks seriously enough."

"Getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Whether at home or abroad, use shade, clothing and plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself."

The study was carried out by Cancer Research UK and high street chemist chain Superdrug.

This article was published on Wed 1 September 2010

Image © Jovanovic Jasmina -

Related Stories

Use this story

Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page