SKIN CANCER is now the second most common cancer in the UK. Forty thousand people are diagnosed with skin cancer in this country every year, and around 2,000 people die of it. Unlike many cancers, skin cancer is a disease that is mostly avoidable. The main cause, exposure to sunlight, is widely recognised. By taking some simple precautions in the sun, we can ensure that the rise in the number of skin cancers is brought to a halt.

This especially applies where children are concerned. Getting sunburnt as a child increases the risk of skin cancer in later life. Redness of the skin, however slight, is a sign that the skin has been damaged. Keep babies who are less than 12 months old out of the sun completely, and, for older children, select a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of a least 15 (and make sure it is water resistant if they are going into the water).

Family Pod Sun Tent - Great Little Trading Company (pounds 49.99)

Even in the shade, babies' skin will absorb harmful UV rays. Pod tents are made from a specially designed lightweight nylon material with metallic reflective coating, which protects children from direct sunlight and glare as well as wind, sand and excessive heat. Its special vents allow air to circulate so the tent stays cool. Packs away into its own carry- bag and only weighs 1kg. A smaller tent is also available for babies, at pounds 25.99.

For a catalogue, tel: 0990 673008.

Sun Protection Clothing (from pounds 6.95)

Sun suits and other clothing that is 98 per cent effective in blocking harmful UVA rays, allowing your child to swim or play safely in the sun. Cool to wear, and brightly coloured so you can easily spot your kids on the beach or by the pool.

Available from Jo Jo, tel: 0171-352 5156, and the Sun Know How Catalogue, tel: 01225 867711.

UV Sun Pendant (pounds 1.99)

This ingenious little pendant for kids changes colour when it is exposed to too much sun. It is a must if you are going somewhere hot and want your children to be able to recognise the dangers of the sun by themselves.

For Sun Know How Catalogue, tel: 01225 867711.

Sunbrella Kids Sunglasses (from pounds 4.99)

Children's sunglasses must provide 100 per cent UV protection, otherwise they can damage children's eyes. When you buy sunglasses, make sure they have a UV sticker or label on them. Avoid toy glasses.

For stockists, call Tommee Tippee, tel: 0500 979899.

UV Sun Watch (pounds 14.95)

This tells you how long you can safely sit in the sun, and buzzes you when you have outstayed your welcome. Set the time, enter the SPF on your suntan lotion - and then enter your skin number. An alarm warns you when it is time to get out of the sun.

Available from UV Tech, tel: 01252 844880.

Suntan Lotions With A Difference

Piz Buin Allergy (from pounds 9.59)

For those who develop photo-allergic reactions when exposed too long to the sun's UVA rays. This can cause various symptoms, from reddening with itching, itchy lumps, to swelling and blistering of the skin. Using Piz Buin Allergy suntan lotion will help to prevent sun-induced allergies.

Ambre Solaire Kids Range

I have tried lots of sun lotions on my kids and have found Ambre Solaire's Kids range to be the best. What is different about this sun cream is its extra water-resistance that lasts up to two hours in the water. It is also "sand-resistant", meaning that although sand may stick, the sunscreen won't wear off. Prices start at pounds 9.89.

Dermalogica Solar Sun Wipes (pounds 17.95 for a pack of 15)

Individually sealed towelettes soaked in Full Spectrum Bodyblock SPF 15 which are ideal for applying sunblock to the upper back, children and bald heads. They come in boxes of 15 and are easily packed away.

For stockists near you, tel: 0800 591818.

Clinique spray-on Factor 15 (pounds 11.50)

This oil-free spray is excellent for men with hairy chests, and for kids when they have sand on their bodies or just won't stand still long enough for you to rub the ordinary suntan lotion in. It is also recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation in the USA.

Karen Banyon is a travel writer and broadcaster.