THE NUMBER of men and women in their 50s being diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Great Britain has soared since the end of the 1970s, new figures from Cancer Research UK show today (Tuesday).
In the East Midlands, this means around three people* in the 50-59 age group are diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer - every week.
Across Britain rates of malignant melanoma in people in their 50s have more than tripled over the last 30 years,** rising from 7.5 cases of melanoma per 100,000 to 26.6 cases per 100,000.
And the latest available figures show that the total number of cases of malignant melanoma for all ages has increased from around 12,100 in the UK in 2009 to around 12,800 in 2010 – a rise of more than five per cent.
In the East Midlands around 810* people of all ages are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year and around 150***die from the disease.
The stark rise in the rates of skin cancer have prompted Tesco to launch a new in-store awareness campaign with Cancer Research UK, as part of their Charity of the Year partnership.
The goal of the partnership is to raise awareness of the early signs of cancer – including malignant melanoma - because the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chance people have of beating the disease.
Cancer Research UK leaflets about the early signs of skin cancer, and advice on preventing the disease, will be available in Tesco pharmacies and cafes.
Glenys Shankland (57), of Hatton, knows from personal experience the importance of spotting skin cancer early. The mother of three was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in November 2010.
Glenys, who works as a customer assistant at the Mickleover Tesco Superstore, said: “When my husband spotted the mole on the top of my left arm that was very itchy and red, I didn’t think anymore about it. I’m fair skinned and most of my family have red hair, so I try to be careful in the sun but I do enjoy being in my garden. I’ve been sunburnt a few times over the years but I never thought it would put me at risk of skin cancer.
“Fortunately I was at the right place at the right time. We’d just moved house and I needed to register with a new GP so I mentioned the mole then. If we hadn’t moved I probably wouldn’t have gone to the doctor as I didn’t think it looked like skin cancer.”
Glenys had surgery to remove the mole and tissue from around the area to make sure none of the cancer had spread. Because it was caught early she did not need further treatment, just regular check-ups.
She said: “That’s why the partnership between Cancer Research UK and Tesco means so much to me. It’s vital to we do all we can to spot cancer early so more lives can be saved. I know if my cancer hadn’t been caught early, things could have been very different for me. All too often cancer is detected further down the line when effective treatment becomes more difficult.”
Tesco is also committed to raising £10 million to fund 32 Cancer Research UK early diagnosis projects around the UK, including one which aims to help people recognise the warning signs of skin cancer.
Thirty years ago malignant melanoma was the seventeenth most common cancer among people in their fifties in Great Britain, now it is the fifth most common in this age group.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East Midlands, said: “If people are diagnosed when the cancer is in the early stages, before it has had a chance to spread around the body, treatment is more likely to be successful.
“Through our campaign with Tesco, we want to highlight the signs and symptoms of skin cancer to people in the East Midlands and encourage them to visit their doctor promptly if they notice any unusual changes in their skin.
“Tesco and Cancer Research UK are passionate about fighting cancer and by working together we aim to get the early diagnosis message across to millions of people this summer.”