Pensioners seven times more likely to get skin cancer

Pensioners in the UK are seven times more likely to develop the deadliest form of skin cancer than they were four decades ago, new findings reveal today.

Cancer Research

Men aged 65 and over are around 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than their parents’ generation while older women are about five times more likely to develop this disease, according to Cancer Research UK.

Around 5,700 pensioners are now diagnosed with melanoma each year in the UK compared with just 600 in the mid-1970s.

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Although age is a major risk factor for melanoma, the huge increase is blamed on the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s.

Each year nearly 1,000 people in Yorkshire develop malignant melanoma and around 160 die from the illness, which is also the second most common in people aged 15-34.

Getting sunburned once every two years can triple a person’s risk of developing the disease. Even reddening of the skin is a sign of damage.

Prof Richard Marais, Cancer Research UK’s skin cancer expert based in Manchester, said: “It’s worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups.

“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.”

Julie Sharp, the charity’s head of health information, said: “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.”