North East skin cancer rates more than treble

Skin cancer rates in the North East have more than trebled in the last 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK.

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How does UV cause skin cancer?

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.

You don't need to redden skin to get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D builds and maintains strong bones and our body produces it when our skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun.

Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D, but it is also the main cause of skin cancer. The amount needed is different for everyone but most can get enough vitamin D from exposure to sun running day-to-day errands.

You shouldn’t have to redden or burn your skin to make enough vitamin D.

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The risks of using sunbeds

Sunbeds give out UV rays which damage skin and can make it look wrinkled, older or leathery, according to Cancer Research UK.

The UV rays from sunbeds can also damage the DNA in skin cells, and over time this damage can build up to cause skin cancer. Sunbeds can sometimes be marketed as a ‘controlled way’ of getting a ‘safer tan’.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer agrees there is sufficient evidence to show using sunbeds causes malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

Skin cancer: Who is most at risk?

Cancer Research UK is warning people to be careful with sunbeds and sunny weather.

Who is the most at risk of skin cancer?

  • Fair skin
  • Moles or freckles
  • Red or fair hair
  • Light coloured eyes
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • History of sunburn

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.

Sunbeds 'main cause of skin cancer'

Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North East, said it is important for people in the region to avoid sunburn as figures show the number of people being diagnosed with skin cancer is increasing.

“We know overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. This means, in many cases, the disease can be prevented so it’s essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad.

“One of the best ways people can reduce their risk of malignant melanoma is to avoid getting sunburn. We know that those with the highest risk of the disease include people with pale skin, lots of moles or freckles, a history of sunburn or a family history of the disease.

“Sadly more and more people in the North East are being diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year."

– Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North East

Why skin cancer rates are rising

Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK and more than 2,000 people die from it each year. The number of people being diagnosed in the North East region as trebled.

Rates have been increasing since the 1970s and they are now five times higher than they were 40 years ago nationally.

The rise is partly down to package holidays to Europe dating from the late 60s and the increasing popularity of being tanned. The boom in sunbed use has also fueled the increase in skin cancer and better detection methods may also have contributed.

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