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Skin cancer rates have soared by 45% in ten years

Skin cancer rates have soared by 45% in ten years in both young and old patients ‘because of rise of package holidays in the 1970s and a more recent surge in cheap flights’

  • The deadliest form of skin cancer – melanoma – has risen drastically since 2004
  • It’s become the fifth most common cancer in the UK, up from the eighth
  • Cancer Research UK warned people to protect their skin while chasing the sun 
  • Young adults’ melanoma cases have risen by 70 per cent since the 1990s. 

Rates of the deadliest form of skin cancer have soared by 45 per cent in ten years.

The jump of melanoma cancer has been recorded in all ages, rising from the eighth most common cancer in Britain to the fifth most common cancer.

It’s also the second most common cancer in young adults, with rates increasing by 70 per cent since in 25 to 49-year-olds since the 1990s.  

Experts at Cancer Research UK said package holidays, which have become more popular since the 1970s, and cheap flights may be to blame, making it easier for people to bathe under intense sunshine. 

Melanoma cancer can be prevented by wearing SPF protection, even in the less sunny months. 

Rates of the deadliest form of skin cancer have soared by 45 per cent in ten years as Cancer Research UK said package holiday and cheap flights make it easier to go abroad (pictured, Spain)

Cases of melanoma cancer have increased from 2004-2006 to 2014-2016, according to the most recent figures available, to 26 cases per 100,000, compared to 17 cases per 100,000 in 2004 (pictured)

Cases of melanoma cancer have increased by more than a third for women and by 55 per cent in men from 2004-2006 to 2014-2016, according to the most recent figures available. 

Cancer Research UK found overall, there are now 26 cases per 100,000, compared to 17 cases per 100,000 in 2004.   

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

Experts believe almost nine in 10 cases could be prevented if people protect their skin with a high factor sun cream. 

The rise of cheap flights means many people now go abroad, where they can be exposed to stronger sunshine, several times a year. 

In 2016, Britons went on a record number of trips abroad in 2017, according to The Office For National Statistics.

There were 72.8million visits overseas, up from 27million in 1996, mostly to holiday.

While people flock to the poolside, research shows getting sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of melanoma.

Sunbeds, which expose people to ultraviolet light, are a cause of melanoma, according to The International Agency for Research into Cancer. 

Cancer Research UK has warned people getting just one sunbed before a holiday, what many call a ‘base tan’, is still dangerous.  

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘While some might think that a tan is a sign of good health, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, it’s actually your body trying to protect itself from harmful rays.

‘These statistics highlight the importance of our Own Your Tone campaign, which encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and adopt sun-safe behaviours.’

Karis Betts, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Sun safety is not just for when you’re going abroad, the sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September.

‘It’s important that people are protecting themselves properly both at home and further afield when the sun is strong.

‘We want to encourage people to embrace their natural look and protect their skin from UV damage by seeking shade, covering up and regularly applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and four or five stars.’

The risk of melanoma increases with age, with around half of people diagnosed in the UK with melanoma are aged 65 and over.

Survival rates are at a record high, NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said, but many people are failing to take preventative measures.

He said: ‘Nearly half a million people were urgently referred for skin cancer checks in the last year, so it’s vital that people take every precaution possible to protect their skin, particularly in the summer months, by wearing sunscreen and spending time in the shade.

‘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 roll-out of rapid diagnostic services.’


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 91,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in the US in 2018 and more than 9,000 are expected to die from it.

Around 15,900 new cases occur every year in the UK, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK statistics. 


  • Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
  • Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma 
  • Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
  • Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
  • Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
  • Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk


  • Removal of the melanoma:

This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary. 

  • Skin grafting: 

The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent. 

  • Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy: 

This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body. 


  • Use sunscreen and do not burn
  • Avoid tanning outside and in beds 
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Examine your skin every month
  • See your physician every year for a skin exam 

 Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society

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