cyclingFor the first time in the UK, more than 10,000 people aged 55 and over were diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer - in a single year, according to the latest figures released by Cancer Research UK today. This compares with around 3,100 cases diagnosed in the UK 20 years ago.

A growing UK population with people living longer means the numbers of people being diagnosed with melanoma continue to climb. The increase in over 55s being diagnosed is likely to be linked to the ‘sun, sea and sangria’ generation who benefited from the cheap package holiday boom dating from the 1960s, and the desire to have tanned skin even at the expense of sunburn.

Melanoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK. For all age groups around 15,400 people across the UK are diagnosed with melanoma each year compared with 5,600 two decades ago – an increase in rates of – 120% since the mid-nineties.

The number of people dying from the disease is also increasing. For the first time around 2,000 aged 55 and over die from melanoma in 2014 in the UK.

Despite the increase in diagnosis and deaths the number of people surviving their disease is also increasing. Today nine in 10 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma in England and Wales will survive their disease for at least 10 years compared to seven in 10 in the early nineties.

Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of developing malignant melanoma. Sunburn isn’t only raw or blistered skin, any pink- or reddening of the skin is a sign of damage.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK’s head of statistics, said: “Getting sunburnt doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely develop melanoma but it does increase your chances of developing the disease. It’s worrying to see that malignant melanoma rates are continuing to rise and it’s very important that people take care of their skin in strong sun, even if they’ve been sunburnt in the past.”