Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Monday, 11 June 2007 18:29 UK

Wealthy more prone to skin cancer

Sunbathers are urged to protect their skin

Rising skin cancer rates are more likely to affect wealthy people, Northern Ireland researchers have found.

Scientists at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital said men, older people and those living in more affluent areas were more likely to be affected.

About 23,000 people took part in the review, which spanned 12 years.

The research has been published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Dermatology.

The study reported a 20% increase in patients and a 62% increase in skin cancer samples processed by pathology laboratories.

The figures also showed that the three most common skin cancers - basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma - accounted for 27% of all male cancers and 26% of all female cancers.

Dr Susannah Hoey from the Royal's dermatology department said the findings showed many patients would have more than one skin cancer.

"The three skin cancers we looked at all increased with age, with the exception of malignant melanomas, which showed a decrease in men aged 75 and over," she said.

"And there was a link between more patients living in wealthier areas and increased levels of malignant melanomas and basal cell carcinomas."

The researchers said their survey reinforced the need for anyone exposed to the sun to take sensible precautions, whether at home or on holiday.

Co-author Dr Olivia Dolan said: "The majority of the people who live in Northern Ireland have fair skin and the 2001 census revealed that less than one per cent of the population belongs to a black or minority ethnic group.

"This means that our results are less likely to be affected by different skin tones and ethnic origin than research carried out in countries with a greater ethnic mix."

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