Melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have soared by 45% since 2004* according to the latest figures released by Cancer Research UK.
Rates have increased by more than a third (35%) for women and by almost three-fifths (55%) for men.**
Cancer risk generally goes up with age and, while melanoma is still more common in those over 65, rates for 25-49 year-olds have increased by 70% since the 1990s.***
The figures have been released to mark the launch of the charity’s Own Your Tone campaign which encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and protect their skin from too much sun.
“While some might think that a tan is a sign of good health, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, it’s actually your body trying to protect itself from harmful rays. These statistics highlight the importance of our Own Your Tone campaign, which encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and adopt sun-safe behaviours.” - Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK
The rise of the package holiday in the 1970s and the more recent surge in cheap flights to sunny destinations have seen a growing trend of people going abroad, sometimes several times a year, where the sun can potentially be stronger. Many people want to try to get a tan on their holidays, without realising that it is actually putting them at risk of permanent sun damage.
Awareness of melanoma skin cancer is also increasing, meaning more people are being diagnosed with, and treated for, the disease.
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cancer in people aged 25-49, but almost 90% of melanoma cases could be prevented if people took better care of their skin in the sun both at home and abroad. Getting sunburnt, just once every two years, can triple the risk of melanoma skin cancer.****
Karis Betts, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Sun safety is not just for when you’re going abroad, the sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September, so it’s important that people are protecting themselves properly both at home and further afield when the sun is strong. We want to encourage people to embrace their natural look and protect their skin from UV damage by seeking shade, covering up and regularly applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and 4 or 5 stars.”
Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage DNA in skin cells and cause skin cancer. The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation and there are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin:
- UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns and can cause skin cancer
- UVA penetrates deep into the skin. It ages the skin but contributes much less towards sunburn and can cause skin cancer
When the sun is strong, it’s important to remember three pieces of key advice:
- Seek shade – when the sun is strongest, between 11am and 3pm in the UK
- Cover up with clothing – wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
- Apply sunscreen regularly – with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars. Use it generously, re-apply regularly and use in combination with shade and clothing.
Make sure you take care in the sun and own your tone this summer.
*Based on the percentage change in melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C43) incidence rates from 18 cases per 100,000 people between 2004-2006 to 26 cases per 100,000 people between 2014-2016
**Based on the percentage change in melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C43) incidence rates from 18 cases per 100,000 women between 2004-2006 to 25 cases per 100,000 women between 2014-2016
**Based on the percentage change in melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C43) incidence rates from 19 cases per 100,000 men between 2004-2006 to 29 cases per 100,000 men between 2014-2016
*** Based on the percentage change in melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C43) incidence rates from 9 cases per 100,000 people aged 25 to 49 between 1993-1995 to 16 cases per 100,000 people aged 25 to 49 between 2014-2016
****Based on the number of melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C43) from all cancer (ICD10 C00-C97 excl. C44) cases diagnosed in the UK in 2016
Journal reference: Brown et al 2018, DOI: 10.1038/s41416-018-0029-6,
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