As million of Brits pack their suitcases to go on summer holidays, there's one scary stat that will get you thinking twice about lying in the sun: sun cream isn't as protective as we've been led to believe.
A study by Cancer Research UK found that while factor 50 sunscreens can reduce burning and slow the onset of cancer, they do not provide complete protection against deadly melanoma - in fact, sufficient UV radiation can still get through enough to damage the DNA in the skin's pigment cells.
Tests performed in a lab showed that mice that were predisposed to melanoma and were covered in factor 50 sunscreen took only 40% longer to develop cancer than the mice that wore sunscreen.
A worrying result for all those of us who have spent hours topping up our tans, especially now that melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with over 13,000 people being diagnosed with the disease annually.
So if our beloved sunscreen won't help us, how should we protect our skin?
Experts said that in addition to wearing sunscreen, holidaymakers should stay out of the sun during 11am-3pm and try to cover up with loose clothing or hats.
Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research, warned: "People tend to think they're invincible once they've put it on and end up spending longer out in the sun, increasing their overall exposure to UV rays.
"This research adds important evidence showing that sunscreen has a role, but that you shouldn't just rely on this to protect your skin.
"It's essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad, and take care not to burn - sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged and, over time, this can lead to skin cancer."
Scroll down to see our picks of the best fake tans for summer, so you can get that summer look without damaging your skin.
<strong class="subheading">The skin signs you should never
- Rates of skin cancer are on the increase, especially in the 18-35 age group. It kills seven people a day.
- "Always stay sun safe and report to your GP any skin changes that aren't normal
- for you, or areas of damaged skin that don't heal," says Dr Leslie.
- Signs of non-melanoma skin cancer can include:
- Anything new or something longstanding changing or not settling.
- A spot or sore that doesn't heal over a few weeks.
- A spot or sore that itches, hurts, scabs, crusts or bleeds for more than four weeks.
- A skin ulcer or erosion that does not heal within four weeks.
- Melanoma skin cancer develops from abnormal moles or freckles, new or longstanding.
<em class="subheading">Remember the ABCDE checklist:[/i]
- A- Assymmetry
- B- Border (a more irregular or uneven shape)
- C- Colour changes
- D- Diameter
- E- Evolution (a new mole or one that's changing)
A pale girl's guide to the best fake tans & tips to survive the winter wash-out
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