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Young Adult Skin Cancer Rates Rising In The UK

April 7, 2011

According to a study by Cancer Research U.K., the use of sunbeds and lack of care during summer months have caused levels of skin cancer to soar among young people, with over two people under 35 being diagnosed every day in the U.K..

The research shows that rates of malignant melanoma have tripled among those aged 15 to 34 since the late 1970s.

The number of cases of melanoma has jumped 5.9 per 100,000 people from 1.8 cases in the earlier period.

Tanning beds could be playing a role in boosting cancer rates among young people, along with the failure to use sufficient protections against the sun’s strong rays.

The charity said that over 900 young Britons are newly diagnosed with the disease every year.

It also warned that older people are at risk, with skin cancer rates rising among all age groups.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research U.K., said in a statement:  “While some sunshine is good for us, going red and burning can be dangerous.”

“The most important thing people can do to reduce their chances of developing skin cancer is to make sure they don’t get red or burn.”

“And the best way to do that is to get to know your skin and how long you can safely stay in the sun, and also avoid sunbeds.”

“The explosion in melanoma rates we are seeing now reflects people’s tanning behavior in the past and the desire to sport a suntan – a trend which began in the 70s with the dawn of cheap package holidays. All too often, holidaymakers thought getting sunburnt was part of the process of getting a tan.”

Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager, told AFP: “It’s very worrying to see that the number of young adults being diagnosed with this potentially fatal disease has risen so dramatically, especially since cancer is typically a disease that affects older people.”

“With summer approaching after such a harsh winter, everyone is looking forward to enjoying some sunshine. But it’s more important than ever to be aware of the dangers of getting sunburnt.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists told AFP that better early diagnosis may be behind some of today’s numbers.

“The fact that skin cancer rates are increasing to such an extent in such a young age group shows that the disease is not just a consequence of lack of sun safety knowledge in previous decades,” she said.

“It is our current behavior that needs to be addressed — four out of five cases of the disease are preventable. Likewise, early detection is crucial – it is the one cancer which you can see very clearly on the outside of the body.”

“Earlier detection and increased awareness of symptoms may have led to some cases being detected in younger age groups, which is why people need to learn both how to spot signs of the disease, and how to prevent it in the first place.”

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