Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 13:00 UK

Deadly skin cancer cases rising

Woman on a sunbed
Binge tanning at home and abroad is blamed for the rise

Binge tanning has caused the number of Britons diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer to top 10,000 each year, Cancer Research UK has said.

The number of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma rose by 650 in one year, taking the total to 10,410 in 2006, the most recent available figure.

The charity predicts this number will rise to more than 15,500 by 2024.

This would make malignant melanoma the fourth most common cancer among men and women in the UK.

In the last 30 years rates of the cancer have more than quadrupled, from 3.4 cases per 100,000 people in 1977 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2006.

Sun safety

Women are more likely to be diagnosed than men: 5,600 are diagnosed each year compared with 4,800 men.

But men are more likely to die from the cancer, and rates of diagnosis among them have risen fivefold, whereas in women they have more than tripled.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "These figures show that a worrying number of people are being diagnosed with this potentially fatal disease.

"With the rates of malignant melanoma in the UK rising faster than any other cancer, it's more important than ever that people are aware of the dangers of getting burnt, either in the sun or from using sunbeds."

She said most melanoma skin cancers were caused by over-exposure to UV rays given off by the sun and sunbeds.

But crucially, most cases could be prevented if people took care not to redden or burn, especially if they have skin which is fair or freckly or has many moles.

She added: "We advise people to enjoy the sun safely by spending time in the shade in the middle of the day, covering up with appropriate cool clothing and sunglasses and applying plenty of sun cream of at least factor 15."

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