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Melanoma Incidence Rates in the UK and Prevention Methods by Siva Veeramani MBBS, BMed.Sci(Hons), MRCS, MBA ,FRCS (Guest Blogger)

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, affecting approximately 15,400 people each year. The incidence of malignant melanoma is increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer in the UK. Since the 1970’s the incidence of melanoma has quadrupled, and this trend is continuing. This is particularly worrying in men where the increase in incidence is the second fastest to grow over the past decade.

Melanoma is now the most common cancer in young adults aged between 15 to 34 years of age. In this age sub-group females have a higher incidence than males. However, these are crude statistics and there is little research on the exact etiology of melanomas in this sub-group (e.g. host factors such as ethnicity or environmental factors such as behavioural risks).


Despite the staggering statistics regarding melanoma in the young, Public Health England have not engaged in many national campaigns. Instead this has been left largely up to the charities and voluntary organizations to promote the message of prevention. There are numerous initiatives undertaken by charities to promote sub safety to the younger population. Examples of these include: Sun Safe Schools and Nurseries by the charity Skcin – a national accreditation scheme to teach children and assist schools and parents on importance of sun safety. Another initiative launched by the charity Melanoma Fund UK was the ‘Outdoor Sports Kids Sun Safety Code’ which received support from 120 National Governing Bodies of Sport. They encouraged sport activity leaders to provide sun protection for kids and encourages children themselves to learn and partake actively in applying sun cream.

Currently there is no statutory requirement that schools or sports clubs adopt policies for sun protection. As a result, sun protection policies are often not adhered to or done in a disorganized manner. Surveys of schools in the South West of England showed an erratic and varied adoption of policy with 35% of schools with no policy at all. When examining provision of sun cream, 65% of schools did not provide this and 15% neither provided or encouraged pupils to bring their own sun cream in to school.

It is clear that in the UK a contemporary approach needs to be undertaken to look at sun protection in the young. With better support for nurseries, schools and sports clubs. We only have to look at sun protection campaigns in Australia to realize the impact that these initiatives can bring. A clearly defined, structured and (hopefully) statutory policy will go a long way in helping to reduce the trend of increasing incidence of melanoma.

Written by Siva Veeramani

Siva Veeramani MBBS, BMed.Sci(Hons), MRCS, MBA ,FRCS(Plast.) is a UK-trained Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic surgeon at The McIndoe Centre specialising in skin cancer; microsurgical reconstruction; trauma; breast and general plastic surgery.

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