Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 00:01 UK

Cheap holidays 'prompted rise in skin cancer rates'

Binge tanning on holiday is being blamed for rising skin cancer rates

The advent of cheap package holidays in the 1970s has led to a "generational shift" in the rates of deadly skin cancer, a charity has warned.

People now in their 60s and 70s are more than five times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than their parents were, figures show.

Men of this age in particular are now seven times more likely to get the disease than they were in the 1970s.

Cancer Research UK said rates were expected to rise even further.

Sun seekers

Launching their annual SunSmart campaign to encourage people to use sun protection, the charity said the stark figures show the impact of changes in tanning behaviour as more people started to travel to sunny holiday destinations and started to use sunbeds.

This generation - who would have been in their 20s and 30s when cheap package holidays exploded in popularity - now have 36 cases of malignant melanoma per 100,000 compared with seven per 100,000 in the mid-1970s.

Sue Deans
Sue Deans, a 64 year old grandmother from Dorset, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after discovering a lump in her lymph nodes.

"When I was younger having a tan was seen to be very attractive and I would spend hours in the sun without any protection.

"And then when I was in my early 20s I began going abroad on holiday and would spend most of my time sunbathing.

"If only we'd known at the time how dangerous getting burnt was and the effect it would have 30 to 40 years later."

It has been predicted that by 2024, skin cancer rates in people aged 60 to 79 will rise by another third.

And it is not just the over 60s at risk - the numbers of men and women of all ages diagnosed with melanoma have quadrupled since the 1970s.

Figures from travel firm organisation ABTA show that in 1970 2.7 million people from the UK went on package holidays abroad.

In 2008 that figure was 18.5 million.

Caroline Cerny, SunSmart manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "A change in the culture of tanning including the explosion of cheap package holidays and the introduction of sunbeds in the seventies means we're now seeing alarming rates of melanoma for an entire age group.

"Today the problem threatens to get worse as teenagers continue to crave a tan on the beach and top it up cheaply on sunbeds.

"Already skin cancer is predicted to become the fourth most common cancer for men and for women in the UK by 2024."

She added that melanoma is largely preventable through avoiding getting burnt in the sun.

skin cancer graph

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The Sun The Sun saved me from breast cancer - 8 hrs ago Skin cancer rates on the rise for elderly - 10 hrs ago
ITN Skin cancer rise linked to 'cheap holidays' - 11 hrs ago
Telegraph Skin cancer risk soars due to foreign holidays - 12 hrs ago
Sky News Deadliest Form Of Skin Cancer Soars - 14 hrs ago

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