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Researchers find melanoma rates have increased by a third in the last decade, with prevention and early diagnosis key to improve survival.

Published: 31st May 2024
Stock image of healthcare professional inspecting patients mole.

Melanoma rates have increased by almost a third in the past decade, with a 57% rise among the over-80s and a 7% rise in those aged 25 to 49, according to Cancer Research UK.

Researchers are projecting 20,800 cases this year in the UK, with around 17,000 cases being preventable. 90% of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.

The research found an increase in melanoma cases across all age groups, with the peak rate of melanoma skin cancer cases arising in adults over the age of 80.

More awareness amongst younger patients of the risks associated with UV exposure and skin cancer, an ageing population, and improved awareness of the associated signs and symptoms of this disease, are some of the factors behind the findings. 


Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK – with around 16,700 cases each year. Statistically, the highest incidence rates are in older people, with around a third of new cases diagnosed in people aged 75 and over each year in the UK. 

Early diagnosis / prevention

Improvements in early diagnosis and treatment have doubled melanoma survival rates in the last 50 years, researchers say.

The report emphasises the importance of prevention, which can be beneficial for primary care to discuss with patients who visit their GP concerned about their moles.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Survival from cancers including melanoma continues to improve, demonstrating the substantial progress made possible by research. But it’s vital that people try to reduce their risk of getting the disease in the first place”.

Dr Claire Knight, a senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said “Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of developing skin cancer, compared with never being burnt”.

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