Charity Tenovus wants free suncream for Welsh under-11s

Applying suncream
Image caption The charity says one sunburn can double the risk of getting skin cancer in later life

Under-11s in Wales should be given free suncream to try to curb increasing rates of skin cancer, the cancer charity Tenovus says.

It is presenting a petition to the Welsh government signed by over 9,000 people backing its call.

The charity's Dr Ian Lewis said being sunburnt as a child can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

The Welsh government said it encourages peopled to take precautions against the sun.

Five hundred people in Wales are diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer - every year. Of those, around 100 do not survive.

The number of cases in Wales has more than doubled in the last 15 years

Blistering sunburn

Tenovus believes that education and raising awareness is key to stopping a further rise in skin cancer and has visited outdoor events during the summer to garner support for its Here Comes the Sun campaign .

As part of the campaign, the charity wants the Welsh government to give under-11s suncream free on prescription.

"One blistering sunburn in childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life," said Dr Lewis, Tenovus' associate director of research.

"We need to prevent the incidence of malignant melanoma increasing in the next generation."

He said schools were becoming more aware of sun safety and some were now creating areas of shade for pupils.

Raise awareness

But he admitted he had heard of cases where teachers did not apply suncream.

One case was highlighted in the media in July when the parents of a 10-year-old girl who attends a school near Swansea complained their daughter had suffered severe sunburn at a sports day.

Pennard Primary School said parents could come in at lunchtime to apply cream, but that it would be impossible for teachers to apply it to the 200 pupils.

Dr Lewis said: "There are ways around that and as part of the education, we would want to show children how to apply it themselves - maybe make a game out of it.

"It is also important that we raise awareness among parents and children about covering up in the sun."

'Economical sense'

He said the cost of skin cancer to Wales was an estimated £14m and that giving away suncream on prescription would make economical sense.

The petition is being handed to the chair of the petitions committee at the Welsh assembly on Tuesday.

If the committee members think it should be considered further, it would be passed on to a specialist committee, such as health.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We encourage people to take precautions to protect themselves from the sun, which can cause skin cancer.

"The use of sun screen is only one of the measures which need to be emphasised when protecting children from the harmful effects of too much sun."

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