Soar in skin cancer rates as it affects more younger people

Skin cancer rates have soared and the disease is affecting more people aged 25-49, a charity says, highlighting the need to protect the skin with sunscreen

Skin cancer rates have soared and the disease is affecting more people aged 25-49, according to Cancer Research UK

Picture shows a doctor examining the skin of a woman in her twenties. Melanoma rates for people aged 25-49 have risen 70% since the 1990s, but many cases could be prevented by using sunscreen.
Picture: Science Photo Library

Skin cancer rates have soared by 45% over the course of a decade, with more younger people now developing the disease, figures show.

Cancer Research UK says the rise of package holidays in the 1970s and a recent surge in low-cost flights has seen more people going abroad, means people have put their skin at risk from strong sunshine.

The charity studied rates of melanoma in 2014-2016, the most recent figures available, and compared them with 2004-2006.

Melanoma up 70% for 25-49 age group

It found:

  • Cases of melanoma in men rose from 19 cases per 100,000 in 2004-2006 to 26 cases per 100,000 in 2014-2016.
  • Cases in women rose from 18 cases per 100,000 in 2004-2006 to 25 cases per 100,000 in 2014-2016.

While melanoma is still more common in those aged over 65, rates for people aged 25 to 49 have increased by 70% since the 1990s.

Cancer Research UK said rising rates were also due to increasing awareness of the disease, leading to more people seeking a diagnosis.

The figures were 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.

A tan means your body is trying to protect itself

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: ‘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 campaign.’

Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common in people aged 25 to 49.

Using sunscreen could prevent many cases

It is thought that almost nine in ten cases could be prevented if people protect their skin with a high factor sunscreen.

NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said: ‘Although cancer survival is at a record high, more people are getting diagnosed with melanoma and nearly half a million people were urgently referred for skin cancer checks in the past year, so it’s vital that people take every precaution possible to protect their skin, particularly in the summer months, by wearing sunscreen and spending time in the shade.'

Professor Powis added: ‘Getting cancer diagnosed as soon as possible is vital to people’s chances of surviving, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out ways to catch it earlier, including through genomic testing and the roll-out of rapid diagnostic services.’

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