GLASGOW children as young at 12 are illegally using sunbeds, it has been claimed.

A researcher says urgent action must be taken to educate youngsters in the city after it was revealed many are unaware of the lethal links between sunburn and skin cancer.

Dr Richard Kyle led a study looking at the sun-related behaviours of about 2200 youngsters aged 12 and 13 living around Glasgow.

He said most of those surveyed were unaware of the link between sun exposure and the risk of cancer - and one in five children who were questioned reported suffering sunburn on more than one occasion.

Experts say higher incidences of sunburn in childhood can lead to skin cancer in later life.

The study, which was funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Scottish Government Detect Cancer Early Programme, is the first research to look at sun-related behaviours and tanning attitudes amongst Scottish teenagers.

One in 20 of the 12 and 13-year-olds surveyed said they had used a sunbed in the past 12 months.

The use of sunbeds among under-18s is banned in Scotland by law.

Researchers say those who used the sunbeds may have done so in their homes, when abroad or it may signal "unscrupulous practices" by sunbed owners. Locations were not identified.

Most of the children asked did not know the common signs and risk factors for skin cancer.

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "I am concerned by the findings of this study, which appear to show a degree of ignorance of the danger of sunburn and sunbed use, and the importance of looking out for the signs of skin cancer.

"It is crucial people listen and act on the health advice to be safe in the sun."

Nearly a fifth of the children surveyed said they "didn't usually use sunscreen".

A total of 61% of the children reported getting a suntan last summer and 42% said they sunbathed regularly to try to get a tan.

Nearly half agreed that most of their friends thought a suntan was a good thing.

Dr Kyle, a lecturer at Stirling University's School Of Nursing, Midwifery And Health, said: "Young people's awareness of skin cancer symptoms and risk factors was low and matched by poor sun protection behaviours.

"This was most apparent in the high prevalence of often severe sunburn during the previous summer."