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Malignant melanoma rates now five times as high as in 70s

Rates of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, are five times higher in the UK than they were in the 1970s, new figures show.

More than 13,000 people are now developing the disease each year compared about 1,800 in 1975.

Incidence rate has shot up from just over three per 100,000 of the population 40 years ago to around 17 per 100,000.

The dramatic rise is partly down to the huge increase in package holidays to sunny European destinations, a boom in sunbed use, and the fashion for a “healthy” tan, according to Cancer Research UK, which released the figures.

“We know over-exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer”

Nick Ormiston-Smith

Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK and more than 2,000 people die from the disease each year.

Sunburn is known to increase the risk of skin cancer, especially in people with pale skin or large numbers of moles or freckles.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistics at Cancer Research UK, said: “Since the mid-1970s, malignant melanoma incidence rates in the UK have increased more rapidly than any of today’s 10 most common cancers.

“Holidays in hot climates have become more affordable and sunbeds are more widely available since the 1970s. But we know over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, and is why it’s essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.

“The good news for those that are diagnosed, is that survival for the disease is amongst the highest for any cancer; more than eight in 10 people will now survive it.”

Malignant melanoma rates increase

Cancer Research UK is campaigning for the third year to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely, in partnership with Nivea Sun.

The campaign provides simple guidelines aimed at helping people protect their skin this summer.

Besides avoiding sunburn, other advice includes spending time in the shade, covering up and using a minimum factor 15 sunscreen.

 

Malignant melanoma incidence rates (UK)   
Period1975-19772009-2011Percentage change
Male2.517.2593%
Female4.217.3316%
Persons3.317.1412%

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