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'Package holidays causing skin cancer increase'

The number of people diagnosed with the most serious form of skin cancer are five times higher than 40 years ago, new figures have shown. 

Research from Cancer Research UK shows more than 13,000 people are now developing the disease every year compared with around 1,800 in 1975.

The latest incidence rates show around 17 people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Great Britain every year, compared to just over 3 per 100,000 in the mid 70s.

The charity believes the dramatic rise is partly down to more people going on package holidays to Europe since the late 60s and the increasing popularity of the “must-have” tan often achieved only after damaging sunburn.  

The boom in sunbed use has also helped to fuel the increase in skin cancer, Cancer Research UK said. And better detection methods may also have contributed to increasing rates.

Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK and more than 2,000 people die from the disease each year.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistics at Cancer Research UK, said: “Since the mid-1970s, malignant melanoma incidence rates in the UK have increased more rapidly than any of today's 10 most common cancers.

“Holidays in hot climates have become more affordable and sunbeds are more widely available since the 1970s. But we know overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, and is why it's essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.”

“The good news for those that are diagnosed, is that survival for the disease is amongst the highest for any cancer, more than 8 in 10 people will now survive it." 

Cancer Research UK suggests: 

 - One of the best ways for people to reduce their risk of melanoma is to avoid sunburn. Those with the highest risk of the disease include people with pale skin, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn or a family history of the disease.

 - Other advice includes spending time in the shade, covering up and using at least SPF15 sunscreen. The campaign will include a digital, radio and outdoor advertising campaign plus teams handing out hats and sunscreen on days when the sun is strong.