Children 'not protected' from the sun

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

MOTHERS may protect their babies from the sun to prevent burning but they increasingly neglect them as they get older, according to doctors, writes Celia Hall.

Dr Janet McLelland, a consultant dermatologist at Sunderland Royal Infirmary who surveyed 416 children, found that one-third had been sunburnt in the previous year.

By the time they had reached school age, 80 per cent had been exposed to the sun without a shirt. Thirty children had been sunburnt five or more times in a year, she says in the British Medical Journal.

She said yesterday that Australian research had shown that burning before the age of 12 was a significant risk factor for malignant melanoma in later life, the skin cancer which is doubling every 10 years.

'We must protect our children. Adults can make their own decisions but children do not understand the dangers . . .

'Not enough have got the message. People may understand and take care if they go abroad, but too few realise that the sun in Britain burns as well.'

Her study of babies and children (including 22 young people aged 16 to 20), showed that only half of the 5- to 9-year-olds had had sun cream applied or had worn a sun hat at least once in the previous year.