Campaigners are urging the British public to be aware of the dangers of skin cancer, after new figures revealed that rates of malignant melanoma are several times higher in the UK today than they were in the 1970s.
More than 13,000 Britons are now developing the disease – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – each year, compared with around 1,800 in 1975.
It is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK, killing more than 2,000 people annually.
While this means the survival rate is amongst the highest for any form of cancer, Cancer Research UK is urging the public to take precautions against the largely avoidable disease.
The charity, which released the statistics, said that the rise in popularity of package holidays to Europe and the use of sunbeds was partly responsible.
“Holidays in hot climates have become more affordable and sunbeds are more widely available since the 1970s”, said Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK.
“But we know overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.”
He added, “This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented, and is why it’s essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.”
Experts warn that people with pale skin or lots of moles or freckles, or those with a family history of the disease, are most at risk.
Caroline Cerny, senior health campaigns manager at Cancer Research, added, “It’s essential to take care not to burn – sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged and, over time, this can lead to skin cancer.
“When the sun is strong, pop on a T-shirt, spend some time in the shade and use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and good UVA protection.”