Skin cancer toll soars among affluent young

Affluent families who take their children on foreign holidays where they are exposed to intense sunlight are contributing to soaring rates of malignant melanoma among the young.

The severest form of skin cancer, which causes 1,800 deaths a year, is rising fastest in people in their teens and twenties and is most common among the better-off, doctors said.

Severe sunburn in childhood is a key trigger for the cancer and the growth of foreign holidays, in winter and summer, is increasing the incidence of sun exposure in children.

Professor Jillian Birch, an expert on teenage cancer from Manchester University, told an international conference in London that melanoma was increasing at 4 per cent a year among 20- to 29-year-olds.

"We know melanoma is caused by intermittent exposure to intense sunlight and that exposure in childhood increases the risks of developing the disease up to 40 years later," she said. "The incidence of the disease rises with age but there is some evidence that in the over-30s it is plateauing. However, in the 15 to 29 age group it is increasing at a faster rate."

Melanoma has seen the fastest growth of any cancer with rates in all ages up by more than 40 per cent in a decade. The rise is blamed on the British fondness for spending long periods on beaches to get a tan.

Latest figures show there were 713 cases of melanoma in young people aged 15 to 24 between 1999 and 2003 in England. Almost twice as many cases occurred in the most affluent group compared with the most deprived, the conference, organised by the Teenage Cancer Trust, heard.

Professor Birch said: "The simple conclusion is that it is down to excess sun exposure in childhood. But in these very young people there is likely to be something else going on. We are probably looking at a combination of sun exposure and genetic susceptibility.

"It is not just Mediterranean holidays but skiing holidays, sunbeds and other elements of the affluent lifestyle. The message is sun protection. Use a sunscreen but, even more important, cover up and keep out of the midday sun."

Other increasing teenage cancers include testicular and ovarian cancer, brain tumours and lymphoma. One of the fastest growing cancers in women under 25 is cervical cancer, with 40 to 45 cases a year in England. The incidence is rising by 6.8 per cent a year in 15-19 year olds and by 1.4 per cent in 20-24 year olds. Rates are falling in women over 25.

Unlike melanoma, cervical cancer is linked with deprivation and is more common in the north of the country, suggesting that safe-sex messages are not getting through. A vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, is being introduced for 12-year-olds this year as part of the national vaccination scheme.

Professor Birch, director of the Cancer Research UK Paediatric and Familial Cancer Research Group at the University of Manchester, said: "Clearly the vaccination will come too late for some of them. We are talking small numbers but we don't want any teenage girl to suffer invasive carcinoma."

What to look out for

*Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It can appear anywhere but the commonest sites are the back, legs, arms and face.

The first sign is either the appearance of a new mole or a change in the appearance of an existing mole. It may be a dark, fast-growing spot where there was not already a mole or an existing mole may change size, shape or colour and bleed, itch or redden. Moles are usually a single colour, round or oval in shape and not more than 6mm (a quarter of an inch) in diameter.

Melanomas have an irregular shape with a notched or ragged border, are more than one colour and often larger than 6mm. If you notice one or more of these characteristics, see your GP.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam