Skin cancer reaches record high driven by 1960s cheap holiday packages

Cancer Resarch UK warns skin cancer cases could ‘soar over the coming years’

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Friday 07 July 2023 04:04 BST

Skin cancer warning signs to watch for

Skin cancer cases are predicted to increase by half by 2040 as a major charity warns the rocketing diagnosis are driven by the 1960s “cheap package holiday” boom.

Cancer Research UK has sent a stark warning over rising skin cancer rates as diagnoses hit record levels of 17,545 a year between 2017-19.

Based on its own projections the charity has suggested there will be 26,531 new cases diagnosed each year by 2040.

Cancer Research UK warned the “rocketing” number of cases is partly due to UV radiation with the rise in over 55s attributed to the “cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s”.

Case rates among this age group have risen by 195 per cent since the 1990s – between 1993 and 1995 21.3 people aged 55 and over were diagnosed with melanoma out of every 100,000, this rose to 62.9 cases per 100,000 in 2017-2019.

Although the charity also warned other factors are driving the increase with people living longer and more people getting symptoms checked.

Despite the increase in diagnoses deaths are decreasing which has been attributed to greater levels of early diagnosis and treatment.

With temperatures set to rise in the UK the charity is urging people to take precautions with sun protection.

Last month NHS England announced an expansion of “teledermatology” to tackle the rising rates of referrals for skin cancer checks which are up by 9 per cent compared to the previous year.

The latest NHS waiting times data for April 2023 showed 11,719 (74 per cent) of people referred for suspected skin cancer were not seen within the two week target, against a target of 93 per cent.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: “Our new analysis paints a mixed picture for cancer patients and the staff who care for them. While it’s promising that more people are seeking treatment for skin cancer earlier and survival is improving, it’s alarming that cases of the disease could soar over the coming years.

“Melanoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer, and we know that 86 per cent of these skin cancers could be prevented. It’s important to take care in the sun and to contact your GP if you notice any unusual changes to your skin – it’s not just changes to a mole that matter, it could be a sore that doesn’t heal or any unusual changes to an area of your skin. Spotting cancer early can make all the difference.”

Commenting on the research professor Dorothy Bennett, professor of cell biology at St George’s Hospital, University of London, said: “The specific suggestion of a link to cheap package holidays is speculative but plausible, to explain the specific rise in melanoma incidence in the older age-group.

“Ultraviolet light (sunlight) is strongly implicated as the main environmental cause of melanoma and other skin cancers, and the UV light becomes more intense and for a longer part of the day, as we get closer to the equator. Use of ultraviolet sunbeds is another factor that increases the risk of melanoma, so that fashion is another potential reason for the overall rising incidence.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in