As the bikini turns 60, it's entering the electronic age with a new model featuring a built-in alarm to warn wearers to get out of the sun -- and ease concerns that the scanty swimsuits damage the health.
The American Cancer Society advises that the best way to lower the risk of skin cancer, the most common form of the disease in humans, is to avoid too much exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet light.
So Canadian company Solestrom has come up with a new bikini that goes on sale next month with a UV meter built into its belt and an alarm that beeps to tell wearers when to head to the shade.
"There's so much concern about sun exposure and skin cancer that we saw the demand and designed something to be safe for the wearer," Solestrom spokeswoman Emily Garassa said. Garassa said the meter on the $190 bikini displays a level of UV intensity on a scale from 0 to 20. A person's sensitivity to UV depends mainly on skin type, but generally three to five would be considered moderate strength, 8-10 very high and anything above 11 extreme.
Garassa said the company was already seeing high demand from Australia and South Africa, which have the world's highest skin cancer rates. The United Stateshas about 1 million new skin cancer cases each year.
Despite increasing awareness of the sun's dangers, sales remain strong for the bikini, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this month.
A new survey by U.S.-based market research company NPD Group found the number of the suits sold in the United States rose 18.8 percent to 33.6million in the year ended in April 2006, with sales worth a total of $811 million.
The two-piece suit was officially named the bikini in July 1946 by French automotive engineer Louis Reard who persuaded nude dancer Micheline
Bernardini to appear in his design at a Paris beauty contest. Reard named the design after Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, where the United States tested an atomic bomb, because he thought the excitement over it would be like an explosion.