People Over 65 Years Seven Times More Likely to Get Melanoma than 40 Years Ago

Prevalence of tanning linked to sharp increase in melanoma risk.

Prevalence of tanning linked to sharp increase in melanoma risk.

The risk of developing melanoma has sharply increased over the last 40 years for people 65 years of age and older, researchers in the UK recently found.

A study conducted by Cancer Research UK showed that older men are approximately 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma and older women are approximately 5 times more likely to develop the disease than people were 40 years ago. The researchers found that on average, approximately 5700 people in the UK age 65 and over are annually diagnosed with melanoma compared with just 600 people during the mid-1970s.

The study noted that the sharp rise in melanoma among this age group is likely associated with cheap vacation packages that boomed during the 1960s and the popularity of a tanned appearance at the risk of a painful sunburn, the authors wrote.

Getting a sunburn just once every 2 years can triple the risk of developing malignant melanoma, with even a reddening of the skin representing a sign of damage, according to the study.

"It's worrying to see melanoma rates increasing at such a fast pace, and across all age groups,” Cancer Research UK skin cancer expert Richard Marais said in a press release. “It is very important for people to take care of their skin in the sun. It is also important for them to keep an eye on their skin and seek medical opinion if they see any changes to their moles, or even to normal areas of skin. Melanoma is often detected on men's backs and women's legs but can appear on any part of the body."

The good news, however, is that this trend is entirely reversible with preventative action.

"Many cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are preventable by taking precautions in the sun and making sure you don't burn,” Cancer Research UK head of health information, Julie Sharp, MD, said in a press release.