Parents have ‘relaxed’ attitude to kids’ sun safety, says survey

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Parents in the UK have what is described as a “worryingly relaxed” attitude to their children’s safety as far as skin cancer is concerned, according to a new survey.

New research by the Met Office in conjunction with the NHS England #CoverUpMate skin cancer campaign has revealed many parents of young children are failing to protect their offspring from sunburn.

Childhood sun damage has been strongly linked to the development of skin cancer in later years, making it a vital time for parents to ensure their children are protected.

However, the study – conducted amongst 1,000 parents with children aged 11 and under – revealed that one in 14 parents admit they have never applied sunscreen to their children.

And despite around 47% of those surveyed understanding that suntans are a sign of UV ray damage, over a third incorrectly believe that suntans are a sign of good health.

Also, a quarter of parents with children aged 11 and under have encouraged them to get a tan, with one in 10 parents of children aged 2-7 admitting they have encouraged them to sunbathe.

And 7% of parents of children aged 6-11 have even allowed their youngsters to use a sunbed.

The Met Office do believe that the figures can in some ways be explained by a lack of knowledge amongst parents of the damage the sun can inflict - pointing out that the survey also found that 7% of parents do not know that UV rays make you burn and have strong links to cancer.

Examples given included the 15% who do not know you can still be exposed to UV rays on cool or cloudy days, while almost half incorrectly believe you can feel UV rays when the sun is strong (you cannot feel UV rays). And over one in five did not realise that the risk from UV rays is greatest between May and September

Clare Nasir, Met Office presenter and meteorologist, said: “As a sun-savvy mum, the findings are really worrying. Young children can’t be expected to apply their own sunscreen – they are unlikely to do it thoroughly, or forgo it completely. Protecting against skin cancer isn’t something parents should leave to chance.

“UV levels are usually highest between May and September. Clouds don’t always stop UV rays, and unlike the sun’s warmth, it’s difficult to know when they may be harming you."