The deadliest form of skin cancer has now become the most common kind of cancer for women in their 20s – according to the latest figures from Cancer Research UK which has just launched its 2009 SunSmart campaign.
Almost every day of the year in the UK a woman between 20 and 29 is diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the potentially fatal form of skin cancer. In this age range there are twice as many cases of melanoma as there are of breast cancer.
Latest figures show around 340 women in their 20s were diagnosed with melanoma in a single year and for women in their thirties melanoma has risen to be the third most common cancer after breast and cervix.
By the year 2024 Cancer Research UK statisticians predict that malignant melanoma will be the fourth most common cancer for men and for women – of all ages – rising from around 9,000 cases diagnosed each year now to more than 15,500.
Experts believe that binge tanning, usually on foreign holidays and increasing use of sunbeds are prime reasons for the alarming rise in this life-threatening disease.
Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign manager, said: “Spending time on sunbeds is just as dangerous as staying out too long in sun. Sunbeds don’t offer a safe way to tan. The intensity of UV rays in some sunbeds can be more than 10 times stronger than the midday sun.
“Excessive exposure to UV damages the DNA in skin cells which increases the risk of skin cancer and makes skin age faster.
“But, importantly, if people take care not to burn in the sun and don’t use sunbeds the majority of malignant melanoma could be prevented.”
A Cancer Research UK survey of 4000 people last year revealed that one woman in three had used a sunbed and research shows that using sunbeds under the age of 35 can increase the risk of melanoma by 75 per cent. The survey also found that 80 per cent of sunbed users first used a sunbed under the age of 35.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK‘s director of health information, said: “It is extremely worrying to see that so many young girls are using sunbeds. Young skin is delicate and so easily damaged by the sun. Damage from UV builds up over time. Every time young people use a sunbed they are harming their skin and increasing their risk of skin cancer.”
More information on Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign