Consumers urged to use adequate sun protection

In collaboration with the Press Association

Consumers are being encouraged to look out for new labelling on sunscreen bottles, which should make it easier to work out the level of protection provided by individual products.

The new labels follow a recommendation from the European Commission, which was concerned that consumers often find it hard to make informed choices.

Now, sunscreen manufacturers will introduce a new UV-A logo showing the minimum protection provided against UV-A rays, which cause premature skin ageing and interfere with the immune system.

Many consumers do not realise that a sunscreen's 'sun protection factor' (SPF) only refers to its protective effect against UV-B radiation, which causes sunburn.

However, both UV-A and UV-B radiation increases a person's risk of skin cancer.

Products should also no longer make misleading claims such as "sun block" or "100 per cent protection" as no sunscreen can provide full protection.

As well as urging consumers to look out for the new labels, the Commission is also keen to emphasise that people should not rely on sunscreen alone when going out in the sun.

Other measures include spending time in the shade in the middle of the day, and covering up with hats and sunglasses.

Consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva commented: "Our message to consumers this summer is very clear - be fully aware that sunscreen is only one of a number of measures that are necessary for effective protection against the sun, and look out for the new labels and make an informed decision about the sunscreen products you use for yourself and your family this summer."

Health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou added: "Everyone, young and old, needs to be well informed about the range of measures that help to protect from UV radiation when enjoying the sun.

"This is why the European Commission monitors ultraviolet exposure in the European Union and its effects on the incidence of skin cancers, as well as the development of relevant prevention and risk reduction strategies within the framework of the Health Programme."

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, confirmed that sunscreen should be used "together with other protective measures such as shade, clothes and sunglasses".

"Cancer Research UK strongly supports clear sunscreen labelling across the EU," she revealed. "We believe that people should be given clear and accurate information about sunscreens so they can compare different products more easily and make more informed choices."

Ms Hiom also noted: "It is really important to apply enough sunscreen in order to provide the protection suggested by the label. Most people do not use enough. Using at least factor 15 sunscreen with a star rating of four or five can help to protect against damage caused by ultraviolet radiation."