Skin cancer rates: Fears for young in UK

sunbed Sunbed use increases the risk of melanoma

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More than two people under 35 in Britain are diagnosed each day with malignant melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer - new figures reveal.

Cancer Research UK says there has been a tripling in melanoma rates among 15- and 34-year-olds since the late 1970s and the rise is continuing.

The charity says sunbeds are partly to blame for the increase.

Using a sunbed before the age of 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 75%, it warns.

Young women in particular need to take care - they are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed as young men.

The rate of young women aged between 15 and 34 in Britain being diagnosed with malignant melanoma now is eight per 100,000. This compared to about four men per 100,000 for the same age group.

Malignant melanoma

  • Malignant melanoma usually develops in cells in the outer layer of the skin
  • The first visible signs of this may be a change in the normal look or feel of a mole
  • More women than men develop malignant melanoma
  • Melanomas in women are most common on the legs and in men they are most common on the trunk
  • Source: Cancer Research UK

Over a quarter of the cases - 256 out of 913 - diagnosed in young adults between 2006 and 2008 were women between the ages of 30 and 34.

Lindsey Coane, 27, an architectural assistant from Preston, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on her leg at aged 21 while she was studying at university in Liverpool.

She was a regular sunbed user.

"I used sunbeds for six to nine minutes at a time every week for nearly two years while at university. I was really keen to have a tan and used to get sunburnt while on holiday with my friends.

"I'm convinced that both these things caused my malignant melanoma.

"I'm very lucky that the cancer was caught when it was. But a lot of skin and tissue still needed to be taken out of my leg, cutting through some of my nerves which left my leg partially numb."

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "The explosion in melanoma rates we are seeing now reflects people's tanning behaviour in the past and the desire to sport a suntan - a trend which began in the seventies with the dawn of cheap package holidays.

Lindsey Coane was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on her leg when she was 21

"Our message is clear - enjoy the sun safely and protect yourself from sunburn."

Melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding getting burnt.

Under-18s are already banned from using sunbeds in Scotland, and in April 2011 the law will change in England and Wales to make it illegal.

Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said improved early diagnosis might partly explain the increasing rates seen.

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