Petition to Create Rickets

 

Sunscreen
Image by Hacklock via Flickr

 

The British Skin Foundation has started an “e-petition” on the government website, asking that the government should give schools in England “advice” about applying suncream.

“Shockingly”, it seems that children are going a whole day at school without having suncream reapplied!

A survey of 1,000 parents, commissioned by MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin in 2011, found almost 40% of pupils had got sunburnt while at school…

Advice from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says schools should encourage children to seek shade whenever possible, particularly when out playing in the midday sun.

It says sunscreen (with a sun protection factor of at least 15) should be applied liberally half an hour before and after going out in the sun, and reapplied every two hours thereafter.

Well, “when I were a lad”, suncream had barely been thought of. The idea of putting suncream on kids before sending them to school, let alone teachers being asked to reapply the cream during the day, would have drawn blank expressions, followed by hearty laughter. And now, while usage of suncreams may not meet the demands of the British Skin Foundation, it is clearly many times greater than it was then.

So that must be good news, right? The number of skin cancer cases must surely be responding to this change, and dropping fast!

Er, no. Cancer Research UK has the figures. For malignant melanoma, they show a steady rise since 1975, with the rate of increase even accelerating. In fact, today there are FOUR TIMES AS MANY CASES per 100,000 of the population as there were then.

The BSF might object, of course, that people take more holidays in the sun nowadays, and also that there are more older people in the population (who get cancer a lot more than the young). But that dramatic increase in skin cancer since the widespread use of suncream became common must surely give us pause for thought here.

What we do know is that Rickets is back. Rickets was common in Victorian times. It is a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. When we are exposed to sunlight, our bodies make it. So too little sunshine means you are at risk of getting rickets.

A University College London survey in 2009 indicated that 20% of women and 12% of men were clinically deficient in vitamin D. These figures are, of course, much higher among Asians and Africans, because of their dark skins.

But wait! What’s this? It’s a similar story from July last year, with campaigners calling for mandatory school suncream policies.

A recent survey of 1,000 parents, commissioned by MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin, found almost 40% of pupils have suffered sunburn while at school…

Advice from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says schools should encourage children to seek shade whenever possible, particularly when out playing in the midday sun.

And it says sunscreen (of at least SPF 15 strength) should be applied liberally half an hour before and after going out in the sun and reapplied every two hours thereafter.

Hey, that sounds familiar!

Luckily, it seems the public have too much common sense to fall for all this. The British Skin Foundation, according to the BBC, is aiming for 100,000 signatures on the e-petition. At the time of writing this, they had got to 350.

If you want sensible advice, you could do a lot worse than that from Professor Angus Dalgleish, a cancer specialist a St George’s Hospital NHS Trust in London, as reported by the Independent in July last year:

“Going slightly pink is OK. But put on block at the first tingling sign that you’ve been over-exposed. But my message is: don’t be afraid of the sun.”

Moderation in all things, Flossie.

(In case you are wondering, this is a family saying in my family. The story goes that two old ladies were seen drinking tea in a cafe. One poured tea for the other, and then offered sugar, saying, “One lump or two dear?” And the other replied, “Oh, just one, please. Moderation in all things, Flossie.” I do of course always take this advice and am always moderate. It’s everyone else who is extreme. :) )

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One thought on “Petition to Create Rickets

  1. Not only did we not use sun cream, never even heard of it then, but in my teens and twenties we used to use olive oil and vinegar to get a tan! I was living in the Channel Isles then so we did get quite a lot of sun. None of my friends got skin cancer, must be more to it. A bit like the smoking debate, all of us who smoke and grew up around smoking should be dead according to the SHS ‘experts’. I imagine any teacher would refuse to apply sun cream for fear of assault charges and, in the current climate I don’t blame them.

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