Retailer H&M is deeply sorry it attempted to sell swimwear using images of a sexy, tanned Victoria's Secret fashion model, the AFP reports.

Ads for the company's 2012 swim line were subject to recent criticism abroad, when dermatologists and spokespersons for cancer foundations began claiming model Isabeli Fontana's ultra-bronzed complexion would put the PYTs (Pasty Young Things) of Europe at a greater risk of developing skin cancer by encouraging them to tan.

If not for H&M and its hairbrained idea to put a tanned supermodel in a bikini, those young people would never have dreamed of setting foot in the sun in their maillots.

In an op-ed published Thursday in Sweden's largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish Cancer Society accused H&M of promoting a "deadly" beauty ideal, adding that the company would, "through its latest advertising campaign not only sell more bathing suits but also contribute to more people dying from skin cancer."

In response, H&M released a statement expressing regret people do not understand Fashion and saying they will take criticisms of their hyper-tanned sex goddess spread into consideration when designing future campaigns. (The company declared no intention to pull the images from the H&M website or billboards.)

"We are sorry if we have upset anyone with our latest swimwear campaign. It was not our intention to show off a specific ideal or to encourage dangerous behaviour, but was instead to show off our latest summer collection.

We have taken note of the views and will continue to discuss this internally ahead of future campaigns."

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for H&M defended the ads, telling Swiss newspaper 20Minuten that model Isabeli Fontana was chosen specifically because, as a Brazilian, her naturally darker skin would showcase the bright colors and strong patterns of the summer swim line better than some pale-faced European. (A black model would, presumably, have proven a less-controversial means to the same end.)

Critics pointed out that, while Fontana may be Brazilian, she isn't always the color of a marshmallow that has just reached the apex of deliciousness (that wonderful tan time just before it bursts into flames).

Coincidentally, a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that half of U.S. adults under 30 reported they had had a sunburn at least once in the previous year, a statistic which will no doubt shock anyone who was unaware the sun could do that.

In other news, can you believe that bikini top is only $5? Buy a bunch and wear them as bras, right ladies?

[AFP via Medical Xpress // Image via H&M]