Melanoma is the second most common cancer among people aged 15-34 and researchers say sunburn in childhood can double the risk of melanoma in later life. In the UK over 7,300 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year and 1,700 people die of the disease.
Professor Brian Diffey, of Newcastle General Hospital in northern England, said many cases could be prevented. Diffey says early detection of the disease is vital and it is essential that people monitor moles and skin blemishes and report any changes in them.
He predicts that if present rates of melanoma continue, as they have done in the last 25 years, then in 30 years time the rates will be three times those presently seen. Malignant melanoma accounts for roughly 10 percent of reported cases of the illness. About 133,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed worldwide each year and usually develops in cells in the outer layer of the skin but can spread to other parts of the body, forming secondary tumours.
People are advised to stay out of the midday sun, avoid sunburns and wear sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Professor Robert Souhami, of Cancer Research UK which has launched a campaign to raise awareness about skin cancer says that half of all cases of cancer can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, more and more people are giving up smoking to lessen their chances of getting a whole range of cancers and reducing the risk of skin cancer is something most of us can do.