People aged in their 60s and 70s are around five times more likely to be diagnosed with deadly skin cancer than their parents were 30 years ago, a new analysis of figures showed today.
Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and incidence rates have risen dramatically since the 1970s.
People in their 60s and 70s have seen the biggest increase over the last three decades, from seven cases per 100,000 people in the mid 1970s to 36 cases per 100,000 in 2004/06.
More than 10,400 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year in the UK.
Cancer Research UK, which released the analysis, said older people now experiencing skin cancer would have been enjoying cheap package holidays in the 1970s.
This was when “sunburn before suntan was a common ritual” and was when sunbeds arrived in the UK, the charity said.
The most dramatic rise in malignant melanoma has been among men in their 60s and 70s.
They are now more than seven times as likely to be diagnosed with the disease as in the 1970s.
Launching the 2010 SunSmart campaign for Cancer Research UK, Caroline Cerny said: “A change in the culture of tanning including the explosion of cheap package holidays and the introduction of sunbeds in the 70s means we're now seeing alarming rates of melanoma for an entire age group. The battle against melanoma is far from won. Today the problem threatens to get worse as teenagers continue to crave a tan on the beach and top it up cheaply on sunbeds.
“We must continue to try and stop this pattern of behaviour or melanoma rates in future generations will hit an all time high.”
She said people should use a high factor sunscreen and avoid the temptation to redden or burn to get a tan. Those with fair skin and moles should take extra care.
Sue Deans (64) a Dorset grandmother, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after having a mole removed a few years earlier.
“I was famous for getting brown,” she said.
“My skin would burn and peel and I would pick off the skin after it had blistered. Then when I was in my early 20s I began going abroad on holiday and would spend my time sunbathing.
“I truly believe my skin cancer diagnosis was due to the sunburn I suffered as a child and teenager.”