Almost half of Britons (46%) got sunburnt this year and admit they would risk doing so again to get a tan, according to a survey released today.
The poll of 2,000 people also found that of those who got burnt, around a third (32%) admitted their motivation was to get a tan and half of those who burnt whilst trying to get a tan would risk burning again next year.
The research was commissioned by charity Cancer Research UK and retailer Superdrug as part of their joint campaign to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely.
Cancer Research UK warned sunburn was a clear sign that a person’s skin cells had been seriously damaged by too much sun and raised the risk of skin cancer later in life.
More than 10,300 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK every year, and almost 2,000 people die from it. Over the last 25 years, rates of malignant melanoma in Britain have risen faster than any other common cancer.
The survey found that 34% of those who admitted to getting sunburnt this year whilst 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. Of those who got sunburnt, 39% said they burned every year.
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. 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.”
Martin Crisp, Superdrug superintendant pharmacist, said: “What’s particularly concerning is that people are setting out with the specific aim of getting sunburn because they see it as part of getting a tan.
“What they aren’t realising is that there is more going on in the skin than what you see on the surface and, while the sunburn and tan may fade, the damage does not.”
The results also showed that two in three people got sunburnt when they were not trying to get a tan and 41% of these 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.
Cancer Research UK and Superdrug’s advice was for people to take precautions such as using shade, clothing and at least factor 15 sunscreen.