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Skin cancer rates in UK rise by 45 per cent in 10 years

Laura Hampson

There has been a 70 per cent increase in skin cancer rates for people aged 25 to 49 since the 1990s, new research from Cancer Research UK has found.

In the findings, released today, researchers also found that melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have risen by 45 per cent since 2004 for the general population in the past decade.

Rates of melanoma have increased by 35 per cent for women and 55 per cent for men.

The researchers also noted that getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma.

Cancer Research UK put these significant increases down to the rise of the package holiday in the 1970s and the recent surge in cheap flights to sunny destinations where the sun can potentially be stronger.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “While some might think that a tan is a sign of good health, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, it’s actually your body trying to protect itself from harmful rays.”

These statistics have been released to mark Cancer Research UK’s ‘Own Your Tone’ campaign where the charity are encouraging Brits to protect their skin from too much sun.

Karis Betts, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Sun safety is not just for when you’re going abroad, the sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September, so it’s important that people are protecting themselves properly both at home and further afield when the sun is strong.

“We want to encourage people to embrace their natural look and protect their skin from UV damage by seeking shade, covering up and regularly applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and 4 or 5 stars.”

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cancer in people aged 25 to 49 – although 90 per cent of melanoma cases could be prevented by looking after your skin and applying sunscreen regularly, both in the UK and abroad.

How to prevent melanoma skin cancer


Cancer Research UK says the sun omits two main types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. Too much UV rays can damage DNA in skin cells and cause skin cancer.

  • UVA: penetrates deep into the skin and ages the skin but contributes much less towards sunburn and skin cancer.
  • UVB: the main cause of sunburns and exposure can result in skin cancer.

Cancer Research UK has provided three pieces of advice when the sun is strong:

  • Seek shade between 11am and 3pm in the UK.
  • Cover up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses.
  • Apply sunscreen regularly.