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A question about 1920/30's surge in sun bathing and it's medical legacy

(7 Posts)
Katymac Tue 17-May-16 09:41:55

I understand from a programme on Radio 4 that there was a surge in sunbathing in the 20s & 30s - houses were built with sundecks, people went and sunbathed at the pubic lido or parks

& that a tan suddenly became fashionable

How does this affect the numbers of people with skin cancer in later years? I know now we seem to be seeing the cancers caused by excessive sunbathing in the 70s but I didn't realise there could have been an earlier peak

Please bare in mind I don't really have a clue what I am talking about and the thread is a result of a half herd radio show that I have interpolated rather badly

brodchengretchen Tue 17-May-16 10:09:04

I'm really interested in the inter-war years in Britain, and from my reading I would say that the sundecks, lidos etc. were as much about architectural developments, fashion and lifestyle changes as much as anything.

Most houses did not have central heating so the opportunity to catch some rays was attractive but leisure time was also at a premium (no social security or benefits payments, which may be another story) because work and putting food on the table had to come first. Suntans therefore would have implied high social status.

Katymac Tue 17-May-16 16:04:27

I was thinking about it from a science point of view

All those bright young things getting super tans & then skin cancer; or is the worry now that we have changed the atmosphere so much it's more of a risk or would it be less diagnosed or something else affecting it

brodchengretchen Tue 17-May-16 16:18:37

I should have made my point better. What I meant was I don't think there was much recreational sunbathing going on in the general population possibly pointing to the cause of fewer instances of skin cancer acquired that way.

HarrietVane99 Tue 17-May-16 16:32:01

From a social historian's perspective -
Most people only had one or two weeks paid holiday, and often worked Saturday morning too, so less opportunity for sunbathing.
Many people didn't go away at all, and those who did, only went in the UK. So again less opportunity for sunbathing.
Plus fashion - people were much more covered up than they are now. Often fully dressed, including hats, when sitting on the beach, walking in the park, in the garden etc. Even shorts and suntops covered more than they do these days, and you'd probably only wear them if you were actually on the beach or doing sports, not for everyday summer wear.

Katymac Tue 17-May-16 16:37:32

I found the programme it's about 7.5/8 mins in

& it is fascinating

Plexie Tue 17-May-16 16:48:24

Some statistics on the Cancer Research website:

Incidence rates (starts from 1979):

Mortality rates (starts from 1971):

The largest increase is in people over the age of 70 (some of whom might have been sunbathing in the 1920/30s) but how can it be ascertained when the exposure that caused the skin cancer took place? Is the cause cumulative repeated sunburn or a couple of incidences in one's youth? I don't think anyone knows for sure.

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