Nearly two-thirds of young people in Scotland are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer by shunning sunscreen to get a better tan, according to research.
Teenage sun-seekers admitted regularly getting burnt while one in ten 13 to 24-year-olds said they never wore sun cream in a poll conducted by the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Only 4 per cent of Scottish young people have never been sunburnt, while more than a third have been burnt more than five times.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer among that age group in Scotland and there has been a 30 per cent rise in overall cases in the past decade, NHS figures have shown.
These new figures show the messages are failing to get through as many are forgetting to apply sunscreen or claiming they cannot be bothered to protect their skin.
The poll also found many believed myths such as not needing to put sunscreen on if you are in the shade, or that it is not possible to burn through clouds.
Iona Stoddart, education and awareness programme manager for Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “Raising awareness of skin cancer is so important, because it is on the rise across the UK.
“We aren’t asking people to avoid the sun entirely, but to take precautions and avoid getting burnt. Repeated damage to the skin can cause problems long term and can increase someone’s risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.”
Scotland’s top doctor Dr Catherine Calderwood has spoken out over the dangers of skin cancer, urging Scots to avoid sunbeds and to cover up in the sun. A “taps off” culture in certain parts of Scotland could be contributing to rising figures, said Leigh Smith, chair of Glasgow-based charity MASScot (Melanoma Action and Support Scotland).
Mrs Smith, a skin cancer survivor, said: “I think in Scotland people do not expect to get sunburnt. They talk about getting caught by the sun. Here in the West of Scotland we have a ‘taps off culture’ where you take your shirt off when the sun comes out.
“I think primary school children are more likely to wear sun cream, as they are at the behest of their parents, whereas teenagers are more likely to ignore it.”
The Scottish Government launched a £100 million cancer strategy earlier this year to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.