British Men and Women in their 50’s have seen cases of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – soar from fewer than 500 each year to almost 2000 since the end of the 1970s, new figures from Cancer Research UK show today.

The sharp increase means that more than five people a day in this age group are now diagnosed with a cancer that can prove fatal if diagnosed at a late stage.

The latest available figures also show that the total number of cases of malignant melanoma for all ages increased from around 12,800 in 2010 – a rise of more than five per cent.

Education in prevention and diagnosis is key. Professor Jonathan Rees said: ‘People’s idea of what skin cancer looks like is limited to three or four images that are widely used to promote awareness of the disease – but we don’t think this goes far enough with helping people identify the problem and going to their doctor.

‘Melanoma is a largely preventable disease; people can reduce their chance of developing skin cancer in the first place if they protect their skin from sunburn. But it’s also important that people are aware of the warning signs for malignant melanoma.’

‘Look out for changes in size, shape or colour of a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin – these should be reported to a GP without delay. In particular look for moles or freckles that are asymmetrical, with uneven colours or borders, larger than a pencil top eraser, are itchy or bleed.’

From Dermalogica’s Living Skin Newsletter*