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Deadly skin cancer cases hit record high

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by Cancer Research UK | News

25 May 2009

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The number of people diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer has crashed through the 10,000 barrier after an alarming rise in new cases, according to the latest Cancer Research UK figures revealed today.

As bank holiday temperatures are predicted to be the highest of the year so far experts are concerned about the dramatic rise in the number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year. They believe the reasons include binge tanning – either at home or abroad on foreign holidays – and reflects behaviour since package holidays became popular.

Cases of malignant melanoma – the potentially fatal form of skin cancer – have risen by more than 650 since last year, taking the number of cases diagnosed in the UK to over 10,400.

And, Cancer Research UK statisticians predict that by the year 2024 this figure could soar to more than 15,500 – making malignant melanoma the fourth most common cancer for men and for women of all ages.

During the last 30 years malignant melanoma rates have more than quadrupled – rising from 3.4 people per 100,000 in 1977 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2006.

The number of women being diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the UK outweighs men by over 700; 5600 women are diagnosed each year compared to 4800 men.

But, more men die from malignant melanoma than women. And the rates of melanoma in men have increased more than fivefold whereas in women they have more than tripled.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information; said: “These figures show that a worrying number of people are being diagnosed with this potentially fatal disease.

“With the rates of malignant melanoma in the UK rising faster than any other cancer it’s more important than ever that people are aware of the dangers of getting burnt, either in the sun or from using sunbeds.

“Most melanoma skin cancers are caused by over exposure to UV rays given off by the sun and sunbeds. But, crucially, if people are careful not to redden or burn, especially if they have fair, freckly or moley skin then most cases of malignant melanoma could be prevented.

“We advise people to enjoy the sun safely by spending time in the shade in the middle of the day, covering up with appropriate cool clothing and sunglasses and applying plenty of sun cream of at least factor 15.”


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.