If you are a child and get sunburnt, your risk of developing skin cancer later in life is much greater than if the sunburn happens to an adult - despite warnings to parents, most seem to ignore the risks and like to see their kids with a tan. Many parents say their children look healthier if they have a tan.

A new survey carried out by Cancer Research UK found that 33% of parents questioned admitted that their child had experienced sunburn. The majority also knew of the skin cancer risks to the child.

The Welsh Teacher's Union is so concerned that they have suggested schoolkids not be allowed to play outdoors on sunny, summer days if their parents have not prepared them with adequate equipment and clothing.

Cancer Research UK is launching a poster which says 'Kids Cook Quick'. It aims to remind parents of the danger of exposing young skin to UV rays.

Posters are also being sent to every GP surgery to be placed in their waiting rooms, as well as 19,000 nurseries throughout the UK.

Sara Hiom, co-ordinator of Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign says, "This poster has been created to help remind parents to protect their children.

"Our survey shows that just over three-quarters of parents know that it's never OK for a child to go red in the sun, but they may not always realise that young skin can burn very quickly, in as little as ten minutes. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we can be caught out.

"We hope the Kids Cook Quick slogan will stick in parents' minds over the summer and remind them to make sure their children are properly protected whenever they are in the sun, by following the SunSmart code.

"This means seeking shade in the middle of the day, covering up with a hat, t-shirt and sunglasses, as well as using sunscreen that is factor 15 or higher."

The national survey*, commissioned by Cancer Research UK and Boots, who are supporting the SunSmart campaign, also reveals that 41 per cent of parents like to see their children with a tan, with the vast majority of these believing that it makes them look more healthy. This is despite high-profile warnings that a suntan is a sign of UV skin damage.

Children's skin is much more delicate than adults' and research shows that sunburn in childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

Dr Catherine Harwood, consultant dermatologist for Cancer Research UK comments, "As children have much more opportunity to play and take part in sports and other outdoor activities, they spend far more time in the sun than adults. Babies' and toddlers' skin is particularly susceptible as their skin is thinner and produces less protective pigment.

"We get around 80% of our exposure to the sun before the age of 21. So it is vital that parents are aware of the dangers and know how to protect their children properly."

*Survey conducted by NOP World over the telephone between 23rd - 25th April 2004, amongst 228 adults aged 16+ who are parents of a child aged between 6 months and 12 years old. Weighting was applied to the data to bring it in line with national profiles.

Notes for editors

Key SunSmart campaign messages are:

- Stay in the shade between 11am - 3pm

- Make sure you never burn

- Always cover up with a T-shirt, wide brimmed hat and sunglasses

- Remember to take extra care with children

- Then use factor 15 plus sunscreen. Also report any mole changes or unusual skin growths promptly to your GP

For more information on SunSmart, visit www.sunsmart.org.uk.

2004 is the second year of Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign, which is a joint initiative with the Government. The campaign is based around a five-point SunSmart message, to help people remember how to be safer in the sun and protect against skin cancer.

This poster is the first of a pair featuring the Kids Cook Quick slogan and is one of several SunSmart resources produced this summer by Cancer Research UK. Materials will also appear in cinemas, schools, universities, FE colleges and clubs and bars in Ibiza.

Around 7,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It usually develops in cells in the outer layer of the skin but can spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma is the third most common cancer among people aged 15 - 39 and early detection is crucial for successful treatment.

Cancer Research UK has been commissioned to run the nationwide SunSmart skin cancer prevention campaign by the Department of Health together with health departments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The SunSmart Campaign is supported by:

The UV Health Promotion Group whose members include the British Association of Dermatologists, the UK Skin Cancer Working Party, National Radiological Protection Board, Skin Care Campaign, Wessex Cancer Trust, Health and Safety Executive, Guide Dogs for the Blind. Also backing the campaign are Boots, Homebase, Lloydspharmacy and Craghoppers Ltd.