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Melanoma skin cancer rates rise by a third in 10 years

Skin cancer rates increased by 57% in people aged over 80 and by 7% in those aged between 25 and 49, reflecting a ‘concerning’ trend in the UK

Melanoma skin cancer rates have spiked alarmingly over the past decade, especially in older people, according to a new report by Cancer Research UK.

The report found that between 2009 and 2019, skin cancer rates increased by 57% in people aged over 80 and by 7% in those aged between 25 and 49.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said it was ‘concerning’ to see the number of people being diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer across the UK. ‘The fact that the majority of these cases are preventable underlines the importance of people taking sun safety seriously.’

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According to the charity, almost 90% of melanoma skin cancer in the UK is caused by excessive ultraviolet radiation (UV), which can damage DNA in skin cells.

The report highlighted that the difference in skin cancer rates between age groups could be because younger people were more aware of the link between UV light and skin cancer risk. The charity has advised people to spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm and cover up with clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and wear UV-protection sunglasses.

However, the report also found that despite a rise in cases, more people are surviving skin cancer, with death rates expected to fall. Almost nine in 10 adults diagnosed with the cancer in England are now surviving for 10 years or more.

Ms Mitchell said this improvement shows the ‘substantial’ progress made possible by research but added that ‘it’s vital that people try to reduce their risk of getting the disease in the first place’.

‘Make sure to take care in the sun and contact your GP if you notice any unusual changes to your skin – whether a new or changing mole, a sore that doesn’t heal, or an area of your skin that looks out of the ordinary. Spotting cancer early can make all the difference,’ she said.