Marriage of minds on a mission

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The Independent Online
THE BODY SHOP is joining forces with Marie Curie Cancer Care again this year to promote safety in the sun. The campaign follows a successful programme of fundraising days in branches last year, which gathered in more than £60,000 for the charity.

The collaboration is an example of how the aims of the charity can dovetail with the philosophies of individual companies. Scientists at the Marie Curie Research Institute in Oxted, Surrey, are studying the effects of damage caused by excessive sunlight to human skin cells and developing new techniques for the prevention and treatment of malignant melanoma. This is the most serious form of skin cancer and kills 1,300 people in this country each year.

The charity also trains practice nurses from GPs' surgeries to advise patients on the prevention and detection of skin cancer, and runs an educational campaign on safety in the sun for the general public.

As Shaun Whatling of The Body Shop explains, this work ties in with the company's concern about the pressure from advertising to conform to idealised images of beauty."The incidence of malignant melanoma is rising rapidly, and this is thought to be partly due to the popularity of sunbathing and the pressure to gain a sun tan," he says. "At The Body Shop, we have always said that we won't promote our products with traditional methods, such as ads showing scantily clad or very thin females, or anyone - male or female - with idealised body proportions. We don't agree with stereotyping the human form and forcing people to match up to these idealised images."

The fact that Marie Curie Cancer Care is very much a local charity also influenced the link-up, Mr Whatling says. "Because our shops are rooted in the communities in which they are set, we like to work with charities that also have roots in the community. It's important for us that our shops forge links locally."

The Body Shop joined in the campaign in the hope of spreading the message that sunshine can be dangerous unless people protect themselves, and that exposure to it can age the skin prematurely. Mr Whatling says: "We're not trying to stop people getting a tan, but we are trying to point out the relative dangers of sunbathing and suntanning."

Last year, branches of The Body Shop ran a series of "Sun Awareness Days" in conjunction with Marie Curie Cancer Care. Marie Curie staff were invited into shops to distribute leaflets and talk about the charity's work. The money raised came from sales of Marie Curie badges and donations to collecting tins.

This year, The Body Shop is adding to its involvement by producing a video in association with Marie Curie Cancer Care, aimed at 10- to 14- year-olds. Mr Whatling says: "The most important thing you can do to prevent the development of malignant melanoma in later life is to avoid sunburn during childhood. Young teenagers are starting to take decisions for themselves and we hope the video will put over the message to this age group."

The video will be available through branches of The Body Shop, and Mr Whatling says teachers and youth group leaders will be able to borrow copies for a small deposit.