Thousands of patients suffering the deadliest form of skin cancer could see their lifespan increased by a pioneering new drug.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended that Ipilimumab, marketed as Yervoy and hailed as a turning point in cancer treatment, should be made available as a first-line treatment for those with advanced melonoma.
Nice was previously criticised for ruling the drug should only be offered to patients who had already undergone chemotherapy or were taking part in clinical trials.
But new evidence has shown that the lifespan of those treated with the drug could increase by up to three years.
"Some of these results are really astonishing; almost jaw-dropping," said consultant medical oncologist Dr David Chao, from Royal Hampstead NHS Trust in London.
Final Nice guidance on ipilimumab is due to be issued on July 23.
Cancer Research UK says too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in skin cells. If the DNA builds up enough damage over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, leading to skin cancer.
There are two main types of UV rays. Both types can cause skin cancer - UVB and UVA.
Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Sunburn doesn’t have to be raw, peeling or blistering. If your skin has gone red in the sun, it’s burnt.
The above video, by Cancer Research UK, explains what happens to skin when it becomes sunburnt.
If you have naturally brown or black skin you are much less likely to develop skin cancer. This is because people with naturally brown or black skin have more melanin pigment in their cells. This helps protect the skin from damaging UV rays.
The number of people diagnosed with skin cancer in Yorkshire has doubled in the last 20 years. Around a thousand people in our region are now developing the disease every year.
Amanda Crosland from Leeds was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2001. Being red-haired and fair skinned, the mum to two daughters has always covered up in the sun. So, when she noticed a new mole, she got it checked out straight away.
Rates of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, are five times higher in the UK than they were in the 1970s, new figures show.
More than 13,000 people are now developing the disease each year compared about 1,800 in 1975.
The dramatic rise is partly down to the huge increase in package holidays to sunny European destinations, a boom in sunbed use, and the fashion for a "healthy" tan, according to Cancer Research UK which released the figures.
However, survival rates for the disease are among the highest for any cancer, with more than eight in 10 people now surviving it, the charity says.
Skin cancer sufferers could be cured of the disease with new breakthrough drugs, experts claimed, as they hailed the "beginning of a new era".
Seriously ill patients are said to have seen "spectacular effects" after receiving the medication which could eventually be used to combat other forms of the condition. It is the first time scientists have come this close to providing a remedy for advanced melanoma.