Did the Rise in Packaged Holidays Increase the Number of People with Skin Cancer?

Did the rise in package holidays increase the number of cancer cases?
When you think of a holiday, thoughts of the bright sun, warm sand and clear waters might come to mind. Conversely, thoughts of melanoma and skin cancer would likely remain in the back of your mind if they appear at all. A recent study from Cancer Research UK, however, suggests that the boom in cheap package holidays during the 1960’s has created a “worrying rise” in skin cancer among retirees as reported by the BBC.

Though the charity has said that all people are at risk of developing melanoma when their unprotected skin is exposed to Sun’s rays, older people who often participated in holiday packages during the 1960’s would have not known how to protect themselves at that time. As reported by the BBC, “Figures show that 5,700 over-65s are diagnosed with the condition each year, compared to just 600 in the mid-1970’s.”

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is particularly common among Caucasian individuals, especially those of northern European and northwestern European descent who live in sunny climates. Affecting melanocytes or melanin-producing cells, the treatment is often surgical removal of the tumor if found early. However, if found later, this cancer can be aggressive and in 2012, resulted in approximately 55,000 individuals worldwide.

Sue Deans, a 69-year old mother of three, was diagnosed with skin cancer twice, the first in 2000 and then in 2007. Speaking to the BBC, she said, “I was part of the generation when package holidays became affordable and you could go abroad nearly every year. I don’t think there was much understanding at the time about the impact that too much sun can have on your risk of getting skin cancer. And I loved the sun but suffered quite a bit of sunburn over the years.”

More information about the importance of protecting one’s skin from the sun is now readily available. For example, the CDC often warns that clothing should protect the arms and legs, though wearing a wide hat can shade parts of an individual’s face, head, ears and neck. As well, it’s recommended that when exposed to sun, sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and with both UVA and UVB protection should be worn.

As Johnathon Major from the British Association of Dermatologists has said, “As people are living longer, more people are reaching an age where they are at a higher risk. But it’s crucial to remember that you don’t have to go on holiday or use a sun bed to heighten your risk.” Thus it behooves all individuals of all ages to develop proper techniques to ensure their skin is protected from overexposure to the sun’s rays.

(Photo courtesy of Phil Whitehouse)

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One Response to Did the Rise in Packaged Holidays Increase the Number of People with Skin Cancer?

  1. Dana says:

    As a survivor, I can’t stress enough to protect your skin. Lather on the sunscreen each time you go out.

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