Increased melanoma rates 'worrying'

Pensioners in the UK are seven times more likely to develop the deadliest form of skin cancer than they were four decades ago, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

Men aged 65 and over are around 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than their parents' generation while older women are about five times more likely to develop this disease, the charity claims.

Around 5,700 pensioners are now diagnosed with melanoma each year in the UK compared with just 600 in the mid-1970s.

Around 5,700 pensioners are now diagnosed with melanoma each year in the UK

Around 5,700 pensioners are now diagnosed with melanoma each year in the UK

Although age is a major risk factor for melanoma, the huge increase is blamed on the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s.

Getting sunburnt once every two years can triple a person's risk of developing the disease, it is suggested.

Professor Richard Marais, Cancer Research UK's skin cancer expert based in Manchester, said: "It's worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups.

"It's very important for people to take care of their skin in the sun.

"It's also important for them to keep an eye on their skin and seek medical opinion if they see any changes to their moles, or even to normal areas of skin.

"Melanoma is often detected on men's backs and women's legs but can appear on any part of the body."

Around 13,300 people across a wide range of ages are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the UK each year making it the country's fifth most common cancer overall and the second most common cancer in young adults aged 15 to 34.

Each year, 2,100 Britons die from the disease.

Cancer Research UK and Nivea Sun are working together to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely this summer with advice on skin protection.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said: "Many cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are preventable by taking precautions in the sun and making sure you don't burn.

"Sun damage accumulates over time so avoiding sunburn - and sunbeds - is key, as well as getting to know your skin type so you don't overdo it on the beach or even in the garden.

"You can burn at home just as easily as you can on holiday, so remember to spend time in the shade, wear a T shirt and a hat to protect your skin and regularly apply sunscreen that is at least Factor 15 and has four stars.

"Swapping bad sun habits for good ones could save your life."

Sue Deans, a 69-year-old retired teacher and mother-of-three from Croydon, south London, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000 after having a mole removed, said: " I was part of the generation where package holidays became affordable and you could go abroad nearly every year.

"I don't think there was much understanding at the time about the impact that too much sun can have on your risk of getting skin cancer.

"And I loved the sun but suffered quite a bit of sunburn over the years.

"I've always been quite body aware so my cancer was spotted early.

"I had successful surgery and have been healthy since, but I'm always vigilant in keeping an eye out for anything unusual or persistent that might need to be checked.

"Now I make sure my grandson knows the dangers of getting caught out in the sun."

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