Survival rate soars for skin cancer

MORE than eight out of ten people diagnosed with the most dangerous form of skin cancer are now surviving the disease, it has been revealed.

New figures in a Cancer Research UK report show that the survival rate for malignant melanoma has improved hugely since the early 1970s when it killed around half of those who were diagnosed.

Posters highlighting this success rate are to be displayed in prominent outdoor locations across the region as part of a new Beat Cancer Sooner campaign.

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In Yorkshire around 950 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year.

Nearly 13,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the UK – around 35 people every day.

The report published today shows the ten-year survival rate for malignant melanoma has reached 80 per cent in men and 90 per cent in women in the UK, compared with 38 per cent in men and 58 per cent in women 40 years ago.

Experts say the increase in survivals is likely to be down to improvements in treatment, early diagnosis and awareness of the symptoms.

Paul Wadsworth, Cancer Research UK spokesman for the Yorkshire region said: “Our research is revealing more about skin cancer: what causes it, how we can better prevent it and how we can develop targeted treatments to help more people beat the disease. Cancer Research UK research was behind the discovery that faults in a gene called BRAF contribute to over half of all cases of malignant melanoma.

“Since then, our scientists have led efforts to develop drugs that target this gene. Skin cancer is one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK, which is likely to be down to our sunbathing habits and the introduction of cheap package holidays in previous decades.

“But the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. That’s why it’s important to get to know your skin and if you notice anything unusual, such as a change to a mole or a blemish that still hasn’t healed after a few weeks, then get it checked out by your GP.

“By funding more research we can bring forward the day when even more people survive.”

Prof Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at Manchester University, said: “Forty years ago, only around half of those diagnosed with skin cancer were surviving, so eight out of 10 is a massive improvement.

“More and more people are beating skin cancer but we can’t stop there and we need to develop better treatments for the two out of 10 where things don’t look so good.

“Obviously we’ve come a long way in the fight against skin cancer and that’s largely down to the generosity of supporters who have funded research to help us to understand the disease better and find new ways of beating it.

“Research funded by Cancer Research UK has underpinned the development of new drugs like vemurafenib. Although these drugs do not cure skin cancers, they can give patients with advanced malignant melanoma valuable extra months.”

Cancer Research UK is calling on people to “help beat cancer sooner” by collectively taking a million actions over the next six weeks such as organising a fund-raising event or donating to a charity shop.