Selfies may lead to skin cancer. Picture: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

SOCIAL media sites such as Instagram and Facebook are helping to fuel an epidemic of skin cancer, according to an expert.

Harley Street dermatologist Christopher Rowland Payne said selfie-obsessed youngsters were ignoring warnings about long- term damage for a momentary ‘like’ from friends.

Dr Rowland Payne said: ‘You can be tanned in three or four days, but the adverse consequences come much later. It’s short-term reward – pleasure now – but long-term cost.’

He added: ‘The selfie craze and “bragging” on Instagram and other social media sites… these make people try to be brown and that very much feeds into this problem.’

Dr Rowland Payne claimed studies showed many people still considered it ‘cool’ to have a tan. Public health campaigns had failed to change attitudes to being out in the sun in the way that warnings about lung cancer had turned people off smoking cigarettes.

‘Smoking is now considered yucky, but tanning is not,’ he said, adding: ‘Women seek a tan more than men, but men admire women who are tanned.’

People also liked tanning because it gave them a physical high, he said, explaining that the sensation was akin to taking a drug.

Skin cancer is the most common and fastest rising form of cancer in the UK. Melanomas are the most deadly form, killing 2,500 people in Britain every year.

Dr Rowland Payne said that on holidays he always spotted people with skin cancer, adding: ‘If I spot one, I take the person aside and have a quiet word with them.’