Charities chase their place in the sun

Combating cancer: Research groups seek slice of pounds 93m market in effort to raise funds and check rapid rise of skin disease
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The Independent Online
GLENDA COOPER

Suggestions of a "suntan" war were denied yesterday as two leading cancer charities launched products on to the pounds 93m sunscreen market.

The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund both launched "unique" own-brand lotions with profits going towards research into skin cancer. But both insisted that it was a "war against cancer, not a war against charities" and claimed there was room for both of them.

Cancer experts predict that there will be more than 40,000 new cases of skin cancer in the UK this year - a figure that has doubled every 10 years since the 1930s when Coco Chanel first made a tan fashionable.

About 2,000 people die from skin cancer each year, of which 1,500 die from the most serious form, malignant melanoma - the incidence of which is increasing faster than any other kind of cancer in Britain.

The CRC's lotion has a protection factor of 20. The charity says it blocks out more than 95 per cent of harmful UVA and UVB rays and is effective in water for at least two hours.

The ICRF's Sun Safe Block uses titanium chemicals which reflect the sun's rays. They are also less likely to cause an allergy than other sunscreens. Both charities say all the profits they earn will be ploughed back into their research programme - 25 per cent of the retail price for the CRC product and 20 per cent for the ICRF.

The CRC lotion will be widely available throughout the UK from the middle of March and will cost pounds 7.99 for a 200ml bottle and pounds 11.99 for 400ml.

The ICRF's Sun Safe, which will be exclusive to Boots, will cost pounds 8.95 for a 250ml bottle of factor 15 and pounds 12.99 for 500ml. There are also ranges with a protection factor of 25 for children and sensitive skin.

But Dr Ian White, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas's Hospital, London, warned against seeing the products as different because they were endorsed by cancer charities. He said there was "nothing special in the products whatsoever ... They are the same as anyone else's".

"It really doesn't matter which one you use," he said. "The titanium dioxide one will reflect the light of your body; the organic one absorbs the light and neutralises it. You find that many creams will have a combination of the two. The differences are purely cosmetic."

Both charities denied that there was any form of rivalry although the two were launched so close together. "It is a war against cancer not a war against charities," said a spokeswoman for the CRC. "Their's is a perfectly good product ... We did look at that product last year and discussed it with Boots but decided against it because the profit margins were too small to plough the profits back into research."

Sharron Benaich, product manager for the ICRF's Sun Safe range, said: "This is a huge market and if there is not room for both of us I will be amazed. We hope these products will make people more aware of the dangers of frizzling in the sun and generate a new market."

One of the scientists who developed the ICRF block, Dr Julia Newton Bishop, said: "It is as foolish to lie on a beach as it is to take up smoking. The evidential link between lung cancer and smoking, the sun and skin cancer is the same. It is far better to be pale."

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