The scientific test, whose launch comes as holidaymakers make plans to top up their tans during warm winter breaks, is able to reveal extent of the damage that sunbathers have inflicted on their skin's genetic material, DNA, over many years.
The new test, called 'skinphysical', draws on pioneering work by skin cancer experts at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, together with Canadian company Genesis Genomics. It is being offered via branches of the Court House Clinics, which are based across the country in London, Essex, Sussex, Birmingham and, to come soon, in Manchester, and by the BUPA clinic in Washington, Tyne and Wear (these places are in the UK).
Few people are aware that once their suntan has faded, the damage to their skin remains. This damage accumulates with every exposure, creating a personal tower of damage which never diminishes, continuously growing, leading to skin ageing and increasing the risk of skin cancer in later life.
Patients opting for skinphysical must give a small sample of their skin from just above their elbow, which is sent off for laboratory tests. They also fill in a comprehensive, ten-page questionnaire as part of a full analysis, which asks detailed questions about their lifestyle, skin type, sun protection regime, and more. All the information is used to provide customised sun safety advice, and patients can repeat the test at a later date to see if a change to their regime has had any affect on their skin cancer risk.
Professor Mark Birch-Machin, a skin cancer expert with Newcastle University's School of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, and managing director of Genesis Genomics UK, which has set up a base in his laboratories on the University campus, said: