Skin cancer is on the rise

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  • This weekend many of us will get the BBQ out for the first time and make the most of the nice weather. But while you’re enjoying the sun, make sure you remember to protect your skin.

    Cancer Research UK’s latest report reveals that at least 2 people under 35 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, every day. A frightening statistic for a country that doesn’t always have the best weather.

    Caroline Cerny, SunSmart campaign manager at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Enjoy the sun safely – relax in the shade, cover up with hats and loose clothing, use at least factor 15 sunscreen with a 4 or 5 star rating to protect your skin from sunburn.

    ‘As well as being painful and unattractive, sunburn is a sign of skin damage that can increase your risk of skin cancer.’

    The cancer charity has also found that melanoma rates in British people aged 15-34 have tripled since the 1970s.

    Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in this age group and according to the charity, getting painful sunburn just once every 2 years can triple your risk of melanoma.

    And last year, they surveyed over 1,000 people aged 16-24 and found that more than 1 in 4 are not likely to protect their skin in the summer. A similar number admitted to competing with their friends for a good tan.

    Almost 1 in 3 were more worried about wrinkles than skin cancer and 8% even said that they saw burning as a key step to getting a tan.

    Who does skin cancer affect?

    Anyone can get it. Having fairer skin or lots of moles or freckles can mean you’re at a higher risk, but people with dark skin can still get skin cancer.

    Recent research has also shown that men are 10% less likely to survive skin cancer than women, possibly because they take their tops off in the sun and expose more skin, or because they’re less likely to go to the doctor about a mole.

    However, we all need to be aware, as young women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than young men.

    Get more information on men’s health issues

    How does skin cancer happen?

    If your skin has gone red in the sun then it’s burnt. It doesn’t have to be raw or blistering.

    Sunburn is when UV rays have damaged the DNA in your skin cells. This can cause them to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.

    How can I protect myself?

    The key is not to burn – so wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. You can also protect your skin by covering up with clothes, a hat and sunglasses and try to stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm – when UV rays are the strongest. Remember that sunburn can happen in the UK as well as on holiday!

    What do the experts say?

    Cancer Research UK spokesman, Ed Yong, says: ‘Few people are aware that sun damage at a young age can make your skin look old, wrinkly and leathery well before its time.

    ‘It can also dramatically increase the chances of developing melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It’s not just older people that are affected – increasingly we are seeing young people being diagnosed with this potentially deadly disease.’

    Sources: Cancer Research UK,, BBC, Daily Mail

    Where to next?

    A medical explanation of melanoma
    Sun protection advice for children
    The truth about sunbeds