SENIOR citizens in Britain are approximately seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma than they were 40 years ago, according to new statistics.
The current figures, supplied by Cancer Research UK, show that approximately 5,700 people aged 65 and over are diagnosed with melanoma every year, compared with only 600 in the mid-1970s. Compared with their parents’ generation, older men in Great Britain are approximately ten times more likely to develop melanoma, while older women are approximately five times more at risk.
While age is the biggest risk factor for melanoma, Cancer Research UK suggest that the huge increase in numbers of UK seniors developing this cancer is likely a result of the cheap, all-inclusive ‘package holiday’ boom that started in the 1960s, coupled with the popularity of sun tanning.
Sue Deans, a 69-year-old retired teacher and grandmother twice diagnosed with melanoma, said that she was part of the generation where package holidays became so cheap that one could afford to holiday in the sun every year. “I do not think there was much understanding at the time about the impact that too much sun can have on your risk of getting skin cancer. And I loved the sun but suffered quite a bit of sunburn over the years,” she added. Deans attributes the early diagnosis and treatment of her cancer to being vigilant in checking for skin abnormalities.
In the UK, malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer and the second most common in young adults. Prof Richard Marais, Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Manchester, UK, said: “It is worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups. It is very important for people to take care of their skin in the sun.It is also important for them to keep an eye on their skin and seek medical opinion if they see any changes to their moles, or even to normal areas of skin. Melanoma is often detected on men’s backs and women’s legs but can appear on any part of the body.”
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that personalised melanoma vaccines could provide a powerful immune response against tumour mutations, according to the results of a ‘first-in-people’ clinical trial led by the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.