Skin cancer rates in Scotland 'soar' since 1970s

melanoma Image copyright Thinkstock

The advent of the package holiday and the fashion for tans has seen skin cancer rates soar in Scotland since the 1970s, according to a charity.

Cancer Research UK said about 18 people in every 100,000 in Scotland were diagnosed with malignant melanoma annually.

In the 1970s, the figure was only about four in every 100,000 people.

Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in Scotland.

On average 1,200 people are now developing the most serious form of skin cancer every year - compared with about 190 in the mid-1970s.

Cancer Research UK has launched a campaign to encourage people to look after themselves in the sunshine.

A spokesman for the charity said: "The rise is partly down to an explosion in package holidays to Europe dating from the late 1960s 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 and better detection methods may also have contributed to the increase in the number of people diagnosed."

The campaign advises people to stay out of the sun when it is at its strongest, usually between 11:00 and 15:00.

It recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a T-shirt and sunglasses when in the sun and protecting exposed skin with sunscreen with a minimum of factor 15.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Caroline Begg was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma after a mole appeared on her back

Mother-of-three Caroline Begg, from Glasgow, offered her support to the campaign after fighting malignant melanoma.

The receptionist used sunbeds before being diagnosed eight years ago at the age of 26.

A mole on her back prompted her to go to the doctor and she said she was lucky the cancer was picked up early.

Ms Begg, 34, said: "I have a large scar on my back but that's nothing compared with what could have happened. I could have ended up not being able to have children. I could have died.

"I was aware that the sun could age your skin but didn't even think about skin cancer. I'm fair skinned with freckles and moles so I'm actually in a high risk category.

"I make sure my kids don't stay out in the sun too long, always use sun cream and I try to put special sun suits on the children in the summer too."

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, said: "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, so it's essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.

"Sadly more and more people in Scotland are being diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year. But the good news is that survival is amongst the highest for any cancer. More than eight in 10 people will now survive the disease."

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