Skin cancer increase due to package holiday boom

On average, 5,700 pensioners are being diagnosed with melanoma each year compared with around 600 in the 1970s. The increase seems to have hit men particularly hard; older men are now ten times more likely to be diagnosed with life-threatening skin cancer than the previous generation. Older women are five times more likely to suffer from the disease.

Approximately 13,300 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the UK each year, making it the fifth most widespread cancer in the UK. It is also the second most common cancer in young adults (aged 15-34) and 2,100 people die from the disease each year.

As with many cancers, risk of melanoma increases with age, but it is thought that the sharp increase within the older age group is attributable to the boom in cheap package holidays from the 1960s onward.

Cancer Research UK cite the example of Sue Deans, a 69-year-old retired teacher and mother of three, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000, and re-diagnosed in 2007 after she discovered a lump under her arm. “I was part of the generation where package holidays became affordable and you could go abroad nearly every year,” she said. “I don’t think there was much understanding at the time about the impact that too much sun can have on your risk of getting skin cancer. And I loved the sun but suffered quite a bit of sunburn over the years.”

Mr Per Hall, Clinical Advisor at Check4Cancer and a pioneer in the early detection of melanoma, comments:We are well aware the damaging effect of UV tanning booths – particularly on the young whose skin will be around for many years to come, perhaps gaining cumulative damaging UV effects. There are papers in the press clearly linking UV damage from tanning booths to a higher incidence of melanoma. Sun exposure habits do play an important role, however, and some studies cite the number of sunny holidays per year as independent risk factors. We know that sunburn in adolescence can carry an 80% increase in melanoma risk.”

According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of developing malignant melanoma and even reddening of the skin is a sign of damage. “We live in a culture that has considered tanned skin highly desirable in recent decades – and, to a large extent, still does”. Previous generations also grew up with the belief that a tan was “healthy” and many still equate bronzed skin with general good health. “In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is the case, and that prolonged sun exposure is putting not only our health, but our lives at risk.”

With over 100,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the UK and over 2,800 dying of the disease, it’s important to detect any changes to your skin early to enable quick and effective treatment.

At SkinHealth UK, we know that early detection of skin cancer is crucial and saves lives. This is why we offer SkinCheck+.

SkinCheck+ is an innovative high quality service recently launched by SkinHealth UK and designed to detect damage in the skin which can be associated with skin cancer. It utilises the latest facial UV imaging technology which allows to visually demonstrate the unseen damage done to your skin by UV light in sunshine.

For more information, FAQ videos and to book an appointment, please click here.