04/05/2012 12:05 BST | Updated 04/05/2012 13:00 BST

'Good Mother' Patricia Krentcil Denies Letting 5-Year-Old Use Sun Bed

Forget endless statistics and health warnings: during Sun Awareness Week, it only took one mother, Patricia Krentcil, to remind us of the dangers of sun worship.

After her five-year-old daughter arrived at school with rash and sun run having gone ‘tanning with mommy’ the 44-year-old New Jersey mother was arrested and charged with child endangerment, reported the BBC.

Patricia Krentcil denies allowing her child into a tanning booth with her - yet one look at her worryingly, over-brown face makes it easy to believe her relationship with UV rays is less than healthy.

Yinka Ebo, Cancer Research UK’s senior health information manager, says: “Sunbeds are not a safe way to tan. Some of the UV rays emitted by sunbeds can be 10-15 times higher than those from the midday sun and every time you use a sunbed you are damaging your skin."

Far from improving your looks, Ebo points out, the radiation given off by sunbeds leads to premature ageing - making skin look wrinkled, leathery and old - and can damage the DNA in skin cells.

“Over time this damage can build up and may lead to malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Using sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma by 75%.”

In 2010 in the UK, 2,749 people in the UK died from skin cancer.

It also is illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to use a sunbed, thanks to successful campaigning by Cancer Research UK for tighter legislation.”

As leading make-up artist Lisa Stokes (who's worked with celebrities including Kate Moss, Gemma Arterton and Myleene Klass), points out, tanning has only been popular in the western world since the late Sixties, early Seventies.

“The likes of Sophia Loren made it fashionable. Prior to this people used to lighten their skin with cosmetics. In the Forties and Fifties pale was chic."

Stokes adds: “I think women feel a tan will cover their flaws, stops them from looking washed out, even makes them look and feel more slender. There's a celebrity factor, with young girls trying to look like super-tanned reality stars from TOWIE, or sun kissed models such as Gisele."

Stokes has noticed more of her clients will compromise their health in order to achieve the perfect look, indulging in fad diets, botox and chemical peels.

Read more about skin cancer below

However, many women have also woken up to the fact that overexposure to the sun can be extremely damaging to the skin, says Stokes.

"Most of my clients these days slap on the sunscreen and opt for a really good spray tan instead. There are so many great ones available now and it's a much safer option," she says.

A recent survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists found that 71% of respondents thought individuals looked healthier with a suntan. Yet, 83% also agreed the risks of skin cancer were not exaggerated.

As Deborah Mason, spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, points out: “People are still putting themselves at risk to acquire a tan under the misapprehension that it makes them look healthier, when in reality a suntan is actually a sign that our skin is already harmed by UV radiation and trying to defend itself against further harm.”

Sadly, we've had more cloud than sun this year- but that doesn't mean our skin is completely safe.

“A significant amount of UV rays (up to 40%) can still get through even when it is completely overcast. For example, if half the sky is covered in clouds, 80% of UV will still shine through,” says Mason.

The organisation has recently launched a World UV App in conjunction with the Met Office – the app tells you the predicted peak UV for your location and what this means for your skin type.

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