Young people * Women's health * Travel health

Women in their twenties dying of skin cancer

not reccommended Women risking their lives for a suntan

The deadliest form of skin cancer has now become the most common kind of cancer for women in their 20s, according to latest figures released from Cancer Research UK.

Almost every day of the year in the UK a woman between 20 and 29 is diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the potentially fatal form of skin cancer. In this age range this means there are twice as many cases of melanoma as there are of breast cancer.

The latest figures reveal around 340 women in their 20s were diagnosed with melanoma in a single year.

And for women in their thirties, melanoma is now the third most common cancer after breast and cervix.

Around 50 women under the age of 40 die each year from melanoma. Overall the disease kills around 1800 people every year but rates are predicted to rise.

By 2024, Cancer Research statisticians predict that malignant melanoma will be the fourth most common cancer for men and for women – of all ages – rising from around 9,000 cases diagnosed each year now to more than 15,500.

Experts believe that the major causes behind this is binge tanning abroad, and the increasing use of sunbeds.

Caroline Cerny, campaign manager for Cancer Research Sunsmart campaign which is being launched today commented:

"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 radiation damages the DNA in skin cells which, in turn, increases the risk of skin cancer and caused skin to 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."

Previous research by Cancer Research UK last year revealed that one in three women had used a sunbed. And it has already been shown that using sunbeds under the age of 35 can increase the risk of melanoma by an astonishing *75 per cent. *The study also found that 80 per cent of sunbed users first used a sunbed under the age of 35.

Around 9000 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year in the UK. Rates of this form of skin cancer have quadrupled since the 1970s. Around 2000 people a year die from malignant melanoma.


Excessive UV exposure is the main cause of both kinds of skin cancer and so everyone is at risk.

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

More information

This article was published on Wed 8 April 2009

Image © Dreef -

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