The failure of pensioners to visit their GP with signs of skin cancer is contributing to an increase in the number of fatalities from the disease, new data has suggested.
It revealed the death rate from malignant melanoma has almost tripled among over-65s over the past 30 years.
In 1979, there were four deaths per 100,000 people in the UK among this age group, rising to 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people by 2008.
Yet the death rate among those aged 15 to 64 remained stable over the same period at around two deaths per 100,000.
Cancer Research said part of the reason was that older people were not asking their GP to check changes to moles and areas of skin. The over-65s were therefore more likely to be diagnosed with cancer when it was more advanced. In recent years some 20% of over-65s were diagnosed with late stage malignant melanoma compared with around 7% of 15- to 64-year-olds.
“While the risk of skin cancer increases with age, the fact that so many over-65s are being diagnosed when the disease is advanced means that older people need to keep a close eye on any changes to their skin or moles to avoid late diagnosis,” said Caroline Cerny, SunSmart campaign manager for Cancer Research UK.
“The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. People should be aware of the basic warning signs for malignant melanoma. If a mole is as big as a pencil-top eraser, bleeds, is sore or itchy, uneven in colour or has jagged edges, then people should visit their GP without delay.”