Melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have soared since 2004 by almost 50% with the highest rate increases seen in men, according to the latest figures released by Cancer Research UK.
It is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cancer in people aged 25-49, but almost 90% of melanoma cases could be prevented.
Cancer risk generally goes up with age and, while melanoma is still more common in those over 65, rates for 25-49 year-olds have increased by 70% since the 1990s. Rates have increased by more than a third (35%) for women and by almost three-fifths (55%) for men.
The figures have been released to mark the launch of the charity’s Own Your Tone campaign which encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and protect their skin from too much sun.
Awareness of melanoma skin cancer is also increasing, meaning more people are being diagnosed with, and treated for, the disease. There have also been treatment advances in the area. For example, patients with a type of advanced skin cancer will soon have a new treatment option available, after pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, was recommended for use on the Cancer Drugs Fund.
This recommendation applies to adults who have melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes, an important part of the body’s natural defence system.
Cancer Research UK wants people to embrace their natural look
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, so 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 4 or 5 stars.”
Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage DNA in skin cells and cause skin cancer. The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation and there are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin:
- UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns and can cause skin cancer
- UVA penetrates deep into the skin. It ages the skin but contributes much less towards sunburn and can cause skin cancer.
Vitamin D sufficiency not linked to sun cream use
Concerns have been raised that sun protection methods, including sunscreen use, may be contributing to vitamin D deficiency. In recent years, global concern about vitamin D deficiency has fuelled debates on how best to achieve healthy levels of vitamin D, known as vitamin D sufficiency, while simultaneously limiting the risk of skin cancer.
Yet according to a recent study by the British Journal of Dermatology that includes a systematic review of 75 papers on sunscreen and vitamin D, sunscreens do not prevent vitamin D production.
Vitamin D, which is vital for bone health, is produced by the skin in response to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight. However, as well as being the primary source of vitamin D, UVR is a major cause of skin cancer, the UK’s most common type of cancer.
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