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When is sun safety doing more harm than good?

Say Communications analyses the impact of sun safety campaigns in the news and on consumers
New figures from Cancer Research UK warn that people over 65 are around seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma - a type of skin cancer - compared to 40 years ago. These important findings were perfectly timed to appear in the news on the first sunny day of 2015, and so the message to cover up is loud and clear.
This shocking rise is thought to be a result of two factors. Firstly, the ageing population - if people are living longer, more people are reaching an age where they are at a higher risk of developing the disease. And secondly, the trend for cheap package holidays which began in the 1960s, and the craze to have a tan even if that meant getting sunburnt in the process.
Thankfully campaigns from charities such as Cancer Research UK that raise awareness of the risks of sunlight exposure have helped change much of that behaviour.
So, there's absolutely no question that raising awareness of health issues is beneficial. But what happens when awareness raising works a little too well?
We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin, and last year guidance from the National Institute for Health and care Excellence (NICE) said that one in five Britons may now be deficient in vitamin D. This could be down to a number of different factors, not just the new practice of being safe in the sun that many of us have adopted, but it does beg the question, what advice should we listen to?
NICE are expected to release recommendations to help people strike the right balance when it comes to being out in the sun this summer.
We often see certain awareness raising activities take off in a bigger way than others. For a while the side effects of eating too much saturated fat was so prevalent in the media, most of us forgot to watch our sugar intake. Now sugar is being labelled the number one cause of the obesity epidemic and government funded campaigns are trying to tackle that and tip the balance once again.
From a communications perspective, health campaigns serve a very important purpose, to let the masses know when there is a real danger they should be avoiding. As a consumer, whilst it might be confusing at times, we need to always be looking at the bigger picture and find a balance.

22nd April 2015

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