Skin cancer sufferers in Scotland have a better chance of survival than ever before with eight out of ten beating the disease, according to a new report.
This may be good news for sunbathers but the report from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) says the incidence of malignant melanoma is still on the increase and is the second most prevalent cancer among young people.
One survivor, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2006 at the age of 26, has been cancer-free for seven years, thanks to early diagnosis and treatment.
Caroline Begg, from Glasgow, discovered a mole on her shoulder “didn’t look right” and went to her GP to get it examined.
She was immediately referred to the dermatology department at Glasgow Hospital and a biopsy revealed she had the early stages of malignant melanoma.
“I was shocked,” said Caroline, now 33 and a mum-of-two. “I was angry at myself as I’d been a regular sunbed user. It was pure vanity.”
Caroline had used a tanning salon two or three times a week since the age of 17, including before holidays in the sun and even in winter.
“To be honest I was tanned most of the year round,” she said. When sunbathing abroad, Caroline admitted she would never use a sunscreen higher than SPF 15, in case it prevented her from tanning.
She was not aware of the risk of skin cancer from her excessive exposure to DNA-damaging UVA rays. Sunbeds can emit UVA radiation that is 10–15 times stronger than those from the midday sun and are the most likely cause of skin cancer, according to CRUK.
Fair-skinned and with 50 to 100 moles, Caroline was in the higher-risk category.
She said the tanning salon had no warnings about the dangers of sunbed overuse.
Since 2010, the Sunbeds Act prohibits under-18s from using sunbeds.
In Caroline’s case, she had no warning symptoms except for noticing a change in the appearance of a less than 1mm sized mole.
“I was so lucky. Surgery removed all of the cancer cells. With skin cancer it is about diagnosing it early because it can spread.
“Now I am the most cautious person in the sun and would never ever use a sunbed. I would urge everyone to take care so they don’t have to go through the trauma I did.”
CRUK’s report, released on July 22nd, shows that the survival rate ten years after treatment has increased to 80 per cent for men and almost 90 per cent for women in Scotland.
“Forty years ago, only around half of those diagnosed with skin cancer were surviving, so eight out of 10 is a massive improvement.” said professor Richard Marais, director of the CRUK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research based at the University of Manchester, in a statement.
“More and more people are beating skin cancer but we can’t stop there and we need to develop better treatments for the two out of 10 where things don’t look so good.”
In Scotland, about 1,200 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year, and the UK has nearly 13,000 new cases per year.
CRUK is calling on the public to “Beat Cancer Sooner” by getting involved in taking “one million actions” against cancer over the summer.