We're Fighting Skin Cancer Harder

Skin cancer survival rates have improved considerably in the last four decades

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Avoiding or reducing exposure to the sun's harmful rays can help prevent skin cancer. This cancer can also be treated with great results, especially if it's spotted early on.

A recent report showed that increased awareness along with new treatments and early diagnosis has helped improve survival rates for people with skin cancer.

More than eight out of 10 people diagnosed with advanced skin cancer today survive the disease, compared to only around five in 10 people forty years ago, says the report.

According to the Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, it's important for people to be familiar with their skin and to see their doctor if they notice anything unusual. Changes to any moles or blemishes could be signs of skin cancer, and detecting them early on may lead to more successful treatment.   

"Avoid too much exposure to harmful sun rays."

This report was published by Cancer Research UK, one of UK’s leading cancer awareness and research charities.

The researchers looked at data from the National Cancer Registration Service, the Office for National Statistics in England and the cancer registries in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

These databases and registries have collected data about cancer since the early 1960s.

According to the report, around 13,000 new cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are diagnosed every year in the UK.

Though this is a sizeable number, more than eight out of 10 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma today will survive the disease, whereas only five in 10 people survived the disease in the early 1970s.

Malignant melanoma is a condition where the cancer has spread to other tissues. Since the cancer is not confined to one area, it can be harder to treat.

Ten-year survival rates are now at 80 percent in men and 90 percent in women, as compared to 38 percent in men and 58 percent in women in the 1970s. These survival rates show what percent of the patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma survived at least ten years.

This report credited these improvements in survival rates to new treatments, early diagnosis and better awareness of skin cancer symptoms.

“Forty years ago, only around half of those diagnosed with skin cancer were surviving, so eight out of 10 is a massive improvement. 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,” said Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Manchester, in a press statement.

Dr. Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, pointed out the importance of catching the disease early. “Skin cancer is one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK, which is likely to be down to our sunbathing habits and the introduction of cheap package holidays in previous decades," said Dr. Kumar. 

"But the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. That’s why it’s important to get to know your skin and if you notice anything unusual, such as a change to a mole or a blemish that still hasn’t healed after a few weeks, then get it checked out by your [doctor],” he said.

The report concluded by highlighting the need for concentrated efforts on early diagnosis and prevention of skin cancer, better therapies and improved quality of care.

This report was published July 22 on Cancer Research UK’s website.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK.

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Review Date: 
July 26, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013