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Scots pensioners most at risk of skin cancer

This news post is about 9 years old

​Alarming figures show steep rise in skin cancer rates among pensioners

Fair skinned Scots are being warned to enjoy the sun carefully as striking new figures show pensioners are most at risk of skin cancer.

According to Cancer Research UK people over 65 in Great Britain are around seven times more likely to develop malignant melanoma compared to 40 years ago.

The most recent figures show that on average around 5,700 pensioners are now diagnosed with melanoma each year compared with just 600 in the mid-1970s.

While age is one of the biggest risk factors for melanoma, the huge increase in pensioners being diagnosed with the disease is likely to be linked to the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s and the desirability of having a tanned appearance even at the expense of painful sunburn.

Skin cancer over 65s1975-19772009-2011Percentage change
Male 6.9 67.6 884
Female 8.5 45.7 436
Persons 7.9 55.2 603

This trend continues with today’s generations risking their health in pursuit of a tan, the charity warns.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “Many cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are preventable by taking precautions in the sun and making sure you don’t burn.

“Sun damage accumulates over time so avoiding sunburn – and sunbeds - is key as well as getting to know your skin type so you don’t overdo it on the beach or even in the garden.”

Every year in Scotland around 1,200 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma and around 190 people die from the disease.

It is the fifth most common cancer overall in the UK and the second most common cancer in young adults (aged 15-34).

Cancer Research UK skin cancer expert, Professor Richard Marais, said: "It's worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups.

"It's very important for people to take care of their skin in the sun.

"It's 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."