Skin cancer rates have “soared” in the UK over the last decade, particularly in men and younger adults, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has warned.
Incidence of melanomas rose in men by 53% – from 19 per 100,000 in 2004-6 to 29 per 100,000 in 2014-16.
And diagnoses in 25-49 year olds rose by 78% – from nine per 100,000 in the mid-90s to 16 per 100,000 in 2014-16.
The charity said that people needed to remember to protect their skin in the UK, as well as on holiday.
Men are more likely to develop skin cancers on their chests and backs and women on their legs, probably because of what they wear in the sun. Men’s risk can also be increased if they have a job that means they work outdoors.
Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK – with just under 16,400 cases in 2016, with 3,400 of those among people aged 25-49.
The increase is being linked to the rise in cheap flights, which means people are more likely to go abroad more frequently.
However, skin cancer is still more common in people over 65.
Experts say almost nine in 10 cases could be prevented by using a high factor sun cream.
They also advise:
- Seek shade when the sun is strongest (between 11:00 and 15:00 in the UK)
- Cover up with clothing – wear a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses
- Apply sunscreen regularly. Use one with at least a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 which has four or five stars. Use generously and reapply regularly
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of CRUK, 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.”
‘Embrace the natural look’
CRUK, which is launching its Own Your Tone campaign, says people can be complacent about risk in the UK.
“Sun safety is not just for when you’re going abroad,” says health information manager Karis Betts. “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.”
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Prof 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.
“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.”