Healthy living

Skin cancer rates soar in baby boomers

Cheap holidays abroad in 1970s to blame

People now in their 60s and 70s are over five times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma, than their parents would have been 30 years ago, new figures show.

This generation of men and women would have been in their 20s and 30s in the 1970s, when cheap package holidays abroad became popular. It was also the time sunbeds arrived in the UK.

According to figures released today by Cancer Research UK, this generation has seen the biggest rise in incidence rates of melanoma, rising from seven cases per 100,000 people in the mid 1970s to 36 cases per 100,000 in 2004/6.

The most dramatic rise in malignant melanoma has occurred in men now aged between 60 and 70.

They are are now over seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than thirty years ago.

And by 2024 melanoma rates in people aged between 60-79 are predicted to rise by a third from where they are today, say Cancer Research UK.

Melanoma is the most deady type of skin cancer. Each year more than 10,000 people are diagnosed with the disease, and around 2,000 die from it. In the UK the rates of malignant melanoma for men and women of all ages have quadrupled since the 1970s.

Caroline Cerny, SunSmart manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “A change in the culture of tanning including the explosion of cheap package holidays and the introduction of sunbeds in the seventies means we’re now seeing alarming rates of melanoma for an entire age group.

“The battle against melanoma is far from won. Today the problem threatens to get worse as teenagers continue to crave a tan on the beach and top it up cheaply on sunbeds.

"Already skin cancer is predicted to become the fourth most common cancer for men and for women in the UK by 2024.

“Melanoma is largely preventable. Burning is not only painful and unsightly; it’s a clear sign that UV rays from the sun have damaged the DNA in your skin cells.

"People with fair skin, freckles and lots of moles should take extra care in the sun. But everyone should avoid the temptation to redden or burn in order to get a tan.”

This article was published on Thu 1 April 2010

Image © Albo -

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