Scotland

Skin cancer rise warning for over 55s

doctor examines a mole Image copyright Thinkstock

Skin cancer rates in Scotland have more than doubled among those aged 55 and over in the past 20 years, a leading charity has reported.

Cancer Research UK highlighted the statistics as it issued advice on safety in the sun this summer.

In Scotland, 900 people aged 55 and over are now diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

The total number diagnosed across all age groups is about 1,300.

The charity said rates of malignant melanoma have risen from almost 25 per 100,000 people in those aged 55 and over in 1993/95 to 53 in 100,000 people in the age group in 2012/14.

The number of people dying from the disease is also increasing.

For the first time, about 150 people aged 55 and over die from malignant melanoma each year in Scotland, based on the 2012/14 figures.

The charity has linked the increase to the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer

Rates of malignant melanoma in Scotland for under 55s have also risen by 27% in the past 20 years.

Despite the increase in diagnosis and deaths, the number of people surviving their disease is also increasing, the charity said, with nine in 10 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Scotland today surviving their disease for at least five years compared to eight in 10 in the early 90s.

Linda Summerhayes, spokeswoman for the charity in Scotland, said: "Getting sunburnt doesn't mean that you'll definitely develop melanoma but it does increase your chances of developing the disease.

"It's worrying to see that malignant melanoma rates are continuing to rise and it's very important that people take care of their skin in strong sun, even if they've been sunburnt in the past.

"We all need some sun for vitamin D but enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunburn can reduce your risk of malignant melanoma."

As well as sunscreen, she said: "The best way to protect skin when the sun is strong is to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm and to cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses."

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