Skin cancer fear as cases rocket

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A HUGE rise in skin cancer cases in the Lothians means there are almost five new patients diagnosed every day.

Middle-aged and elderly men are said to now be particularly at risk, prompting warnings from charities about the cancer catching up on patients potentially decades after it has been contracted.

The number of instances have increased at a steady rate to more than 1800 in the last year, with rates doubling in a decade, making it the most common form of cancer. It now accounts for around two-fifths of all cancer diagnoses.

NHS Lothian and leading cancer charities have warned residents about being complacent in the sun, with Macmillan Cancer Support renewing its plea to particularly younger people to stop the use of sunbeds.

A spokeswoman for the organisation in Edinburgh said: “It is the fastest growing cancer in the country and it has a different profile.

“It is more prevalent among wealthier groups, which isn’t the case with most cancers.

“No cancer happens instantly so these statistics are a bit of a reflection of the past.

“There is more awareness now but we still have a long way to go. We would always encourage people not to use sunbeds because of the increased risk of skin cancer.”

One problem skin cancer presents for health chiefs is who to target for awareness appeals.

The at-risk register ranges from sun-seeking teens flying out to Spain for a summer holiday, to pensioners who may have played as children bare-chested and are only suffering the ramifications now.

Skin cancer data is split into two main categories, malignant melanoma and non-melanoma The latter is less aggressive and affects the majority of patients, but it has been stressed that both variations are highly preventable and treatable.

Latest figures suggest around 90 per cent of people survive skin cancer.

Men are thought to be particularly at risk because of their laissez faire attitude to suncream.

Dr Val Doherty, consultant dermatologist for NHS Lothian, said: “There are a number of factors behind the ongoing rise in skin cancers and in melanoma in particular.

“Currently the best recognised of these is the relationship to sun exposure and sunbed use.

“Awareness of the signs of skin cancer has improved over time and more melanomas are being diagnosed at an early stage, which means they have a good prognosis.

“It is sensible to follow advice about avoiding overexposure to the sun and the use of sunbeds.”

amorris@edinburghnews.com