Annual melanoma diagnoses for over-55s pass 10,000

4 July 2016

The number of older people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has seen a considerable increase over the last two decades, according to a new report.

New figures released by Cancer Research UK have shown that 10,583 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in the UK in people aged 55 and over in 2014, marking the first time more than 10,000 people aged 55 and over were diagnosed with malignant melanoma in a single year.

Rates of melanoma in people aged 55 and over have more than doubled in the last 20 years, rising 155 per cent from the 3,100 total recorded two decades ago. Rates in the UK for under 55s also rose, albeit at a slower rate of 63 per cent, during the same time.

Melanoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK, with around 15,400 people across the UK diagnosed with the disease each year - considerably higher than the 5,600 figure from 20 years ago, representing an increase of 120 per cent since the mid-90s.

Part of the reason why this condition is becoming a more common issue for older people is the fact that the UK population is on the rise, with people generally living longer on average. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of today's over-55s belong to a generation who lived through and participated in the cheap package holiday boom beginning in the 1960s, which created a sense of cultural appeal around tanning, even at the risk of sunburn.

As such, the number of people dying from the disease is on the rise, with around 2,000 individuals aged 55 and over succumbing to melanoma in 2014. However, survival rates are also improving, with nine in ten people diagnosed with malignant melanoma in England and Wales now expected to survive the disease for at least ten years, compared to seven in ten in the early 90s.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK's head of statistics, said: "Getting sunburnt doesn't mean that you'll definitely develop melanoma, but it does increase your chances of developing the disease.

"It's worrying to see that malignant melanoma rates are continuing to rise and it's very important that people take care of their skin in strong sun, even if they've been sunburnt in the past."

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change to an existing mole. This can affect any part of the body, although the back, legs, arms and face are the areas that are most commonly affected.

People with a large number of moles or freckles are at a higher risk of developing the disease than others, as are those with pale skin that burns easily or people with red or blonde hair. Those that suspect they have a symptom of the disease are advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible, as the prognosis for the condition is much better if it is caught early.

Posted by Edward Bartel

 


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