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Experts tell of a ‘tidalwave’ of melanoma

Experts have said that skin cancer cases have increased by a whopping 250% over the last 30 years.

Researchers from the Alan Lyell Centre for Dermatology in Glasgow have examined the number of cases in 1990 compared to those today and noted that the number of patients diagnosed with the disease has increased two-and-a-half fold.
“As holidays to sunny locations become cheaper and tanned skin remains a desirable fashion statement, we have seen an inevitable increase in skin cancer incidence rates and the associated health and financial burden they place on the nation.” said Jonathan Major from the British Association of Dermatologists.More affordable holidays, sunbed availability and an ageing population are all factors said to contribute to the ‘tidalwave’ of melanoma seen throughout clinics and doctor’s offices in the UK.

Other reports have recently suggested that older men are at the biggest risk of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer – melanoma. Malignant melanoma is one of the leading cancer types in the UK, with more than 13,000 British patients diagnosed with it each year, and it kills 2,000.

Each year since 1994, cases of melanoma in men aged over 60 has increased by 12%. Older women are the next social group most likely to develop the condition. These statistics have prompted experts to warn large organisations which run awareness campaigns for skin cancer that they’re reaching out to a limited audience which doesn’t include those most at risk.

Younger people are often more likely to use sunbeds, so the ‘Fake It, Don’t Bake It’ campaign was projected specifically through social media – a media platform favoured by those that are younger. The innovative skin cancer awareness initiatives at Ogilvy Brazil and Sol de Janeiro collectively trained 650 tattoo artists to spot the signs of skin cancer whilst up close and studying the skin for their profession, and tattoos are generally more popular with younger generations. These campaigns mean that older people who are more at risk may be missing out on vital information which could help them identify the signs and symptoms of skin cancer.

On a good note, the study has shown that survival rates of the condition have also improved significantly. 85% of men, and 90% of women patients who have suffered from skin cancer now survive for at least five years after diagnosis. This is great news considering that between the years of 1983 and 1987, survival for more than five years after diagnosis was only 64% for men and 81.9% for women.

Matthew Gass, who works for the British Association of Dermatologists said, “The incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer continues to rise at a worrying rate, and although the rise in incidence has been met by an improvement in survival rates, the ultimate goal is to prevent skin cancers occurring in the first place. There is still a long way to go in terms of education around sun awareness and skin cancer. We hope that people recognise that prevention is far better than a cure.”

As skin cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in the UK, it’s important that education and awareness of the disease and its signs or symptoms are easily identifiable by the public. Seeking treatment earlier always gives the patient a better chance than seeking treatment when the disease is more advanced. Some forms of cancer can be aggressive and potentially deadly, but they can be largely prevented by avoiding prolonged or unprotected exposure to the sun, and by applying sun cream correctly.

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