MILLIONS of Brits are at risk as skin cancer rates have soared by 45 per cent over a decade, new figures show.
Research has found that cases of melanoma – the most deadly type of skin cancer – has risen by more than half for men and 35 per cent for women.
Overall, the jump was from 18 cases per 100,000 people to 26, according to Cancer Research UK.
While melanoma is still more common in those aged over 65, rates for 25 to 49-year-olds have increased by 70 per cent since the 1990s.
According to the charity, the rise of package holidays in the 1970s and a more recent surge in cheap flights has seen more people going abroad, sometimes several times a year, putting their skin at risk from strong sun.
But it said rising rates were also down to increasing awareness of the disease, which has led to more people seeking a diagnosis.
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common in people aged 25 to 49.
Experts believe almost nine in 10 cases could be prevented if people protect their skin with a high factor sun cream.
Getting sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of melanoma.
What are the warning signs?
The most common sign of skin cancer is a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin.
It’s important to know your skin and what it looks like normally so you notice any unusual or persistent changes.
Use a mirror, or ask your partner or a friend to check the areas of your skin that you can’t see.
There are five things to look out for when it comes to moles:
If a new or existing spot begins to change shape it could be a sign of skin cancer.
It may grow quite suddenly, or change over time, but if it is asymmetrical it’s a good idea to get it checked by a GP.
Spots that have irregular borders are a red flag sign of skin cancer.
It may be a freckle or mole you’ve had for years that’s suddenly got a funny border.
Or you’ve just developed an odd looking spot.
Either way, see your GP.
Many cancerous moles will have different colours within them.
Or an existing mole may have become darker.
If you have a spot with different colours in it, or a mole starts to get darker, don’t risk it – speak to a doctor.
For this point you are looking for a mole that starts to grow.
You may not notice it at first, but after a while you may notice it is larger than it started out.
Any mole that is growing in size needs to be checked by a GP straight away.
Most freckles and moles tends to be flat against the skin.
If one of them suddenly becomes raised it’s a sign of skin cancer.
If you naturally have a raised mole on your skin that doesn’t mean it won’t ever become cancer, so keep an eye on those too.
A change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin is a common sign of skin cancer, but there are also other signs to be aware of, including:
- a new growth or sore that doesn’t heal
- a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts
- a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs
If you notice any of these signs, see your GP. If you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, 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.”
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.
“It’s important that people are protecting themselves properly both at home and further afield when the sun is strong.
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 four or five stars.”
NHS national medical director Professor 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 last 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.
“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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