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Skin cancer rates up 470% in the UK since the 1980s

Skin cancer rates have rocketed in the past few decades, rising five-fold in men, a study shows.

Incidence rates for the disease – the fifth most common cancer in the UK – are also up 250 per cent for women.

The research, by Brighton and Sussex Medical School, analysed data on more than 265,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer in England over the 37-year period between 1981 and 2018.

The number of average annual number of skin cancer cases between 1981 and 1985 was 2,446, compared with 13,915 per year between 2016 and 2018

The number of average annual number of skin cancer cases between 1981 and 1985 was 2,446, compared with 13,915 per year between 2016 and 2018

The number of average annual number of skin cancer cases between 1981 and 1985 was 2,446, compared with 13,915 per year between 2016 and 2018

The average number of cases increased around 470 per cent from 2,446 per year in 1981 to 1985, to 13,915 per year between 2016 and 2018. 

Rates of the disease in men overtook women around six years ago.

There have been enormous increases in rates of skin cancer of the torso and arms since the 1980s.

Researchers say lifestyle changes such as sunbathing, holidaying in places with strong sunlight, budget holiday industries and the use of sunbeds are some of the factors which could explain the increase.

It is estimated that about 86 per cent of all skin cancers in the UK are attributable to excessive exposure to sunlight.

Professor Anjum Memon, lead author of the study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, said: ‘We observed that the steepest increase was in males – more than two-fold that of females – and at old ages. 

‘The steeper increase in males is consistent with their relatively greater sun exposure and poor sun-protective behaviour.’

The study also found that rates of skin cancer among people under 35 have stabilised over the last 20 years, suggesting that public health campaigns targeted at young people have been successful.

TOO MUCH TIME IN THE SUN POSES POST-MENOPAUSE RISK 

Spending too much time in the sun after menopause could lower women’s oestrogen levels.

A lack of oestrogen is thought to be responsible for the misery of hot flushes and night sweats in post-menopausal women. 

Now a study from the University of Bergen in Norway has found those exposed to the most sunshine, taking into account their sunbathing behaviour as well as the climate where they live, have lower levels of oestrogen.

The authors suggest that the oestrogen is being used up to help process vitamin D – which comes from exposure to sunlight – into different forms in the body.

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