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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 00:13 GMT
Experts fear soaring cancer rate
Sunbather
Sunbathing can increase the risk of skin cancer
Annual UK rates of deadly skin cancers could treble by 2035, experts warn.

Based on current trends, children could be three times more likely than their grandparents to develop malignant melanoma, says Cancer Research UK.

Every year, more than 7,000 UK people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma and about 1,700 die from it. Diagnoses could top 20,000 in 2035, it warns.

Researchers said global warming and the increasing numbers of overseas holidays taken by Britons would contribute.

By 2035, people will be diagnosed at younger and younger ages, the charity predicts.

Safe sun advice
Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm
Make sure you never burn
Cover up with a T-shirt, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
Use factor 15 or higher sunscreen
Take extra care with children

Professor Brian Diffey, of Newcastle General Hospital, said his research into future trends in skin cancer suggests we will continue to see rising rates for many decades.

He said it was partly down to climate change through global warming and the UK's sun-worshipping culture, with more and more people travelling to sunny destinations overseas for their holidays.

Early detection

Even though many people are beginning to heed warnings about the dangers of too much sun and follow advice about slapping on the sunscreen, he said rates would continue to soar because of the amount of sun exposure people have had already.

It's important still to be vigilant
Professor Brian Diffey of Newcastle General Hospital

The risk of melanoma, as with most cancers, increases with age, but a recent study led by Professor Diffey showed that it is increasingly being diagnosed in people of all ages.

Men and women born in 1970, now in their mid-30s, are being diagnosed with melanoma at the same rate as people who were born in 1930 and didn't develop melanoma until their 50s.

Public awareness campaigns would help lower the toll, he said, but he emphasised that early detection was the key to bringing down mortality rates.

"It may be 20 or 30 years before we can see the benefits of these campaigns. It's important still to be vigilant."

If caught early enough, these cancers are highly treatable with very good survival outlooks, he said.

Cancer Research UK dermatologist Dr Catherine Harwood says: "It's vitally important that melanoma is detected and treated early.

Malignant melanoma warning signs
Change in colour of the mole
Change in size of the mole
Change in outline of the mole
Bleeding or crusting of the mole
Change in sensation of the mole such as itching

"The best advice we can give people is to keep an eye on moles and any unusual skin blemishes. If existing moles start to change they should always be checked by a doctor."

She said signs to watch out for include a mole getting bigger, a mole with a ragged outline or one with a mixture of different shades of brown and black.

Cancer Research UK is focusing its SunSmart campaign this year on 16 to 24-year-olds, warning them that sunburn can double their risk of skin cancer.

Professor Robert Souhami, of Cancer Research UK, said: "One of the important messages is to persuade people, especially youngsters and those with fair skins, to avoid excess sun exposure and burning.

"It's not about keeping out of the sun, it's about being smart in the sun."




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