Tanning alert: Skin cancer cases in UK double

Cheap foreign holidays and sunbeds are to blame

The most deadly form of skin cancer is affecting more than twice as many people as 20 years ago, official figures show.

Experts say cheap foreign holidays, sunbeds and a reluctance to wear sunscreen have caused cases of malignant melanoma to soar.

Some 9,417 victims in England were diagnosed with the cancer between 1985 and 1987. But by 2004-06, the figure had risen to 24,356. The number of deaths also rocketed from 2,868 to 4,485, according to the South West Public Health Observatory.

The NHS-funded group’s skin cancer map of England, launched on the Skin Cancer Hub website yesterday, shows that the South West has the highest incidence of the disease and the highest death rate.

Malignant melanoma has become the most common cancer in women in their 20s. Dr Julia Verne, director of the SWPHO, said: ‘We know that the South West has got more hours of sunshine, beautiful countryside and lots of beaches.

‘In the South West, we have also got a higher proportion of people with very fair skin, blue eyes and fair hair, or red hair and freckles. People with fair skin really want to protect themselves from burning, because they are at highest risk of developing malignant melanoma.’

Professor Mike Richards, the Government’s cancer tsar, said that prevention and early diagnosis were key. ‘It is important that those providing health services have access to the best information about who is at risk so that resources can be targeted effectively’, he added. ‘The Skin Cancer Profiles are an excellent start in that direction.’

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