East Anglia: Cancer charity claims explosion of package holidays to Europe in 1960s is to blame for spike in deadliest form of skin cancer

Fresh concerns about skin cancer

Fresh concerns about skin cancer - Credit: PA

Health experts have issued fresh warnings over skin cancer after the number of people diagnosed with the deadliest form of the disease more than doubled in the last two decades in East Anglia.

An explosion in package holidays to Europe dating back to the 1960s and a boom in sunbed use to get ‘must-have tans’ were behind figures showing 1,300 people now develop malignant melanoma every year in the east of England, Cancer Research UK said.

However, during the early 1990s, only around 460 people in the region were diagnosed annually with the condition, the most serious form of skin cancer, the charity said.

The research, published today, also found men are now more likely to be diagnosed than women – a reversal of the current national picture.

Between 1990 and 1992, there were 8.8 cases diagnosed per 100,000 women in the region, which increased to 17.7 between 2008 and 2010.


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For men, it rose by 138% during the same period from 7.7 to 18.3.

Helen Johnstone, Cancer Research UK spokesman for the east of England, said binge tanning at home and abroad, as well as better detection methods, have contributed to the dramatic increase.

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“We know overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.

“This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, so it is essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad,” she said.

“One of the best ways people can reduce their risk of malignant melanoma is to avoid getting sunburn. We know that those with the highest risk of the disease include people with pale skin, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn or a family history of the disease.”

It was reported in July last year how the survival rate for malignant melanoma in the region has shot up from around 33% some 40 years ago to 80%.

However, Dr Andrew Yager, a GP at Botesdale Health Centre in Diss and a governing body member of the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, warned people not to be complacent of skin cancer.

There are more new cases of all skin cancers than breast and lung cancers combined, while malignant melanoma kills more than 2,000 people every year nationally.

Dr Yager said: “It is so important to protect your skin from the sun. You should check your skin regularly and make an appointment with your GP if a mole or dark mark appears to change in size or shape or bleed and ulcerate.

“If skin cancer is diagnosed early enough it can be treated.”

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, echoed his concerns, adding: “We urge people to follow the guidance available about preventing skin cancer.

“Appropriate use of preventative measures will reduce the prevalence of the disease in the future.”

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