Rise in foreign holidays set to cause skin cancer spike, scientists warn

Doctors say the NHS is already unable to cope with number of cases

Benjamin Kentish
Friday 09 December 2016 16:27

The number of Britons developing the two most common forms of skin cancer is set to soar because people are taking more foreign holidays, scientists have warned.

Cases of non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are forecast to rise by 78 per cent by 2025 as people are exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays during increasingly common overseas breaks.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Dermatology, found there were likely to be around 380,000 cases of NMSC in 2025 – up from 213,000 in 2015.

Scientists did not include the deadliest type of skin cancer, called melanoma, but this is also expected to become more common.

Treating the skin cancer “epidemic” will cost the NHS up to £465m a year by 2025, a sharp rise on the £261m spent in 2010.

Researchers from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service used official data to predict the rise.

Dr Nick Levell, president of the British Association of Dermatologists and one of the authors of the study, said "NMSC is largely a disease of older people, as it is mainly linked with cumulative sun exposure, and so numbers will increase with changing UK demographics, producing a growing burden on healthcare resources.

"However, the ageing population isn’t the only reason why we are seeing these increases. Other factors include the rise in affordable foreign holidays, which has allowed more people to visit sunny climates, and the widespread popularity of tanned skin in British society, encouraging people to spend more time in the sun and on sunbeds."

Experts also said the NHS was under-equipped to cope with the rise in skin cancer cases.

Matthew Gass, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “The UK has been fighting to combat the rising tide of skin cancer over the last few decades, and this research shows that things are going to get worse.

“As it stands many dermatology departments are struggling to manage the increasing rates of skin cancer, at a cost to people with other skin diseases. This situation will be made even worse by rising staff shortages.

"We are not being allowed to train an adequate number of doctors to cope with the current workload in dermatology resulting in almost a quarter of consultant dermatologist posts in the UK being unfilled.

“This workforce shortage will only get worse in the future.”

NMSC cancers consist of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and the less common squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). They killed 781 people in the UK in 2014, according to official statistics.

Non-melanoma skin cancers can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun. They appear gradually and tend to get bigger over time.

NMSC often look like a scab or sore, lump, or scaly patch of skin appears red or inflamed. They are usually treatable when caught early but will not go away by themselves.

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