According to the latest figures from Cancer Research UK, the deadliest form of skin cancer has now become the most common kind of cancer for women in their 20s.
Around 9000 cases of malignant melanoma, the potentially fatal form of skin cancer, are diagnosed each year in the UK. Incidence rates of this form of skin cancer have quadrupled since the 1970s. Around 2000 people a year die from malignant melanoma.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 53,792 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin in 2005 and 8,345 people died.
Almost every day of the year in the UK a woman between 20 and 29 is diagnosed with malignant melanoma. In this age range there are twice as many cases of melanoma as there are of breast cancer.
Latest figures show around 340 women in their 20s were diagnosed with melanoma in a single year.
And for women in their thirties melanoma has risen to be the third most common cancer after breast and cervix.
Around 50 women under the age of 40 die from melanoma each year. Overall the disease kills around 1800 people every year but rates are predicted to rise.
By the year 2024, Cancer Research UK statisticians predict that malignant melanoma will be the fourth most common cancer for men and for women of all ages.
Experts believe that binge tanning and increasing use of sunbeds are the main reasons for the increase of incidence of melanoma.
Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager, said: “Spending time on sunbeds is just as dangerous as staying out too long in the sun. Sunbeds don’t offer a safe way to tan. The intensity of UV rays in some sunbeds can be more than 10 times stronger than the midday sun.
“Excessive exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster.
“But, importantly, if people take care not to burn in the sun and don’t use sunbeds the majority of malignant melanoma could be prevented.”
A Cancer Research UK survey of 4000 people last year revealed that one woman in three had used a sunbed. And research shows that using sunbeds under the age of 35 can increase the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent.
The survey also found that 80 per cent of sunbed users first used a sunbed under the age of 35.
A recent study found that nine per cent of 11-17 year old girls have used a sunbed.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “It is extremely worrying to see that so many young girls are using sunbeds. Young skin is delicate and so easily damaged by the sun. Damage from UV builds up over time. Every time young people use a sunbed they are harming their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer.”
Excessive UV exposure is the main cause of both kinds of skin cancer. Other factors that increase skin cancer risk are:
* People with light eyes or hair, who sunburn easily or do not tan
* People with a lot of moles, unusually shaped or large moles or a lot of freckles
* A history of sunburn doubles the risk of melanoma
* Using sunbeds
* Family history of skin cancer