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Suffolk: Deadly skin cancer cases see sharp rise

PUBLISHED: 11:59 22 July 2013

Cancer experts say people need to ensure they taje precautions when sunbathing.

Cancer experts say people need to ensure they taje precautions when sunbathing.

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Cases of skin cancer in the region are rising sharply – but far more people are surviving the deadly disease than ever before.

Sarah thankful for friend’s nagging

Mum-of-two Sarah Crowe considers herself lucky to be alive after being diagnosed with skin cancer six years ago.

The 44-year-old only visited the doctor because her friend Lisa Cole nagged her to get a suspicious mole on her back checked out.

Within two weeks she was told she had malignant melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Mrs Crowe, who works as a store associate for BHS in Lowestoft, said: “I used to swim a lot with my friend and she noticed that a mole on my back had changed to a lighter colour.

“I’m not one for sitting in the sun and I don’t use sun beds so I didn’t think anything of it at first.

“I only went to the doctors because she kept going on about it and even the doctor said he was 100% certain it was nothing to worry about. Fortunately he took a biopsy anyway.”

Within two weeks she received a devastating phone call while on her lunch break.

Mrs Crowe, who lives with her husband David and has two children Jennifer, 21, and Ryan, 19, said: “I was absolutely stunned. I bolted for the ladies locker room and ended up on a heap on the floor howling.”

She underwent surgery at at James Paget Hospital to cut out a section of her back 5cm deep by 3cm wide.

Tests showed the area surrounding the mole had become cancerous but it had not spread so no further treatment was needed.

Mrs Crowe said: “I’m one of the lucky ones. If it hadn’t been for my friend I might not be here today. I know from personal experience the importance of research and early detection because my stepdad died of stomach cancer 11 years ago and my mum survived throat cancer.

“Now I check myself all the time and I make sure that I’ve got something to cover myself up with if it’s a hot day.”

New statistics released today show there are 1,300 people every year diagnosed with malignant melanomas – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – in the East of England.

Forty years ago, barely one-third would have lived, but today the figure for survival has dramatically risen to more than 80%.

With the country enjoying a heatwave, experts say people need to continue to be aware of the causes of the disease and to take action to prevent problems being stored up for the future.

Jane Redman, of Cancer Research UK, said: “Our research is revealing more about skin cancer: what causes it, how we can better prevent it and how we can develop targeted treatments to help more people beat the disease.

Sarah Crowe, of Suffolk, who survived skin cancer after a friend spotted changes in a mole on her back. Sarah Crowe, of Suffolk, who survived skin cancer after a friend spotted changes in a mole on her back.

“Skin cancer is one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK, which is likely to be down to our sunbathing habits and the introduction of cheap package holidays in previous decades.

“But the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.

“That’s why it’s important to get to know your skin and if you notice anything unusual, such as a change to a mole or a blemish that still hasn’t healed after a few weeks, then get it checked out by your GP.

“By funding more research we can bring forward the day when even more people survive.”

The charity says the survival rate for malignant melanoma has reached 80% in men and 90% women, compared with 38% in men and 58% in women 40 years ago.

Nearly 13,000 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year in the UK, with around 2,200 deaths. Around 100,000 people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, though more than 500 of these still die.

Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester, said: “Forty years ago, only around half of those diagnosed with skin cancer were surviving, so eight out of 10 is a massive improvement.

“More and more people are beating skin cancer but we can’t stop there and we need to develop better treatments for the two out of 10 where things don’t look so good.”

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