Skin Cancer Seven Times More Likely for Pensioners Today Than Those in the 1970s
Cancer Research UK has revealed that pensioners are now seven times more likely to develop serious skin cancer than they were in the 1970s. There are currently around 5,700 pensioners being diagnosed with melanoma each year, compared to 600 a year only forty years ago.
Men are more likely to develop the disease, with men aged 65 and over now being ten times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than those of the previous generation, but the increase in risk is also significant for women, who are now five times more likely to develop the condition.
Age does play a role in the risk of melanoma, but the increasing prevalence of the disease has been attributed to the major rise in affordable holidays, which began in the 1960s. The popularity of sunbeds is also a concern. Getting sunburn just once every two years is enough to triple a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, so experts stress the importance of making sure your skin is protected while you’re outdoors.
“It’s worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups,” says Professor Richard Marais, Cancer Research UK’s skin cancer expert. “It’s very important for people to take care of their skin in the sun. It’s also important for them to keep an eye on their skin and seek medical opinion if they see any changes to their moles, or even to normal areas of skin. Melanoma is often detected on men’s backs and women’s legs, but can appear on any part of the body.”
“Many cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are preventable by taking precautions in the sun and making sure you don’t burn,” says Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information. “Sun damage accumulates over time so avoiding sunburn – and sunbeds – is key, as well as getting to know your skin type so you don’t overdo it on the beach or even in the garden.
“You can burn at home just as easily as you can on holiday, so remember to spend time in the shade, wear a T-shirt and a hat to protect your skin, and regularly apply sunscreen that is at least factor 15 and has four stars. Swapping bad sun habits for good ones could save your life.”