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Skin cancer rates surge 45% in a decade

Melanoma is the second most common cancer in 25 to 49 year-olds

Skin cancer rates in the UK have soared by 45% over the past decade, with young people also developing the disease, research shows.

Cancer Research UK found rates of melanoma – the most deadly type of skin cancer – rose by 35% among women and by 55% among men between 2004-2006 and 2014-2016.

The charity said the rise of package holidays in the 1970s and more recent surges in cheap flights for weekends abroad have driven the increase.

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 16,000 diagnoses is annually and 2,285 deaths. 

While the condition is most common in those aged over 65, rates for 25 to 49 year-olds have increased by 70% since the 1990s, and it is the second most common type of cancer in this age group, according to the figures published by the Telegraph.

Experts said rising rates were also down to increasing awareness of the disease, which has led to more people seeking a diagnosis.

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.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said there is no such thing as a healthy tan, which is your body’s way of trying to protect itself from harmful rays.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, 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.

“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 rollout of rapid diagnostic services,” he added.