Skin cancer legacy of package holiday boom

Skin cancer legacy of package holiday boom

The cheap package holiday boom of the 1960s is partly behind the "worrying rise" in skin cancers in pensioners, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

The charity says that while everyone is at risk of developing skin cancers many older people would not have been aware of how to protect themselves four decades ago.

CRUK figures show that 5,700 over-65s are diagnosed with the condition each year, compared to just 600 in the mid-1970s.

Around 13,300 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most serious form of skin cancer - each year in the UK. And 2,100 lives are lost to the disease annually.

CRUK says that numbers are increasing across all age groups but the steepest rise is seen in over-65s. The charity said all ages are benefitting from public health messages explaining the dangers of holiday sun.

CRUK says people need to be sensible in the sun. It says that research suggests that getting sunburnt just once every two years can increase the odds of developing malignant melanoma.

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at CRUK, said: "You can burn at home just as easily as you can on holiday, so remember to spend time in the shade, wear a T-shirt and a hat to protect your skin and regularly apply sunscreen that is at least factor 15 and has four stars."

Sue Deans, a 69-year old mother of three, was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2000 and again in 2007. She said: "I was part of the generation when package holidays became affordable and you could go abroad nearly every year.

"I don't 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 spotted signs of her cancer early on and has had successful surgery, but remains vigilant for anything that might need further checks.

By Mark Gould, 

OnMedica, Tuesday 7th April 

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