A change in tanning culture 30 years ago means that middle aged skin cancer cases have quadrupled since the 1970s.
A rise in package holidays has been partly to blame for the skin cancer increase
According to figures from Cancer Research UK, cases of middle aged men and women diagnosed with malignant melanoma have increased from 500 in the late 1970’s to more than 2,000.
There are two main types of skin cancer- melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common and less aggressive than melanoma, which can quickly spread to other parts of the body.
In Britain 30 years ago malignant melanoma was the seventeenth most common cancer among people in their fifties. Now, it is the fifth most common cancer in this age group.
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We know that cancer survival in the UK lags behind the best in Europe and this is likely because of a combination of many factors including late diagnosis.
“Melanoma is a largely preventable disease; people can reduce their chance of developing skin cancer in the first place if they protect their skin from sunburn. But it’s also important that people are aware of the warning signs for malignant melanoma.
“The chances are this won’t turn out to be cancer, but if it is, spotting it early could make a real difference to the outcome.”
Experts blame the change in the culture of tanning several decades ago, with the explosion of cheap package holidays and the introduction of sunbeds in the seventies.
If melanoma spreads to other organs in the body, life expectancy is low. In June, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence made a preliminary decision to turn down an advanced skin cancer drug for use on the NHS.
It is the second skin cancer drug denied by NICE within a year after Yervoy was also turned down.
Since Zelboraf and Yervoy are licensed for use in the UK, they will still be available to people with full cancer cover on their health insurance policy.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012