LONDON, April 6 (UPI) -- For aging adults, 65 and over, the deadliest form of skin cancer is seven times more likely than it was 40 years ago. A new report from the nonprofit group Cancer Research UK blames the rise on package holidays.
Researchers say that as all-inclusive getaways to tropical destinations have become more affordable over the last several decades, more and more people are accumulating skin damage from sun exposure.
Older men are more than 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma than their parents were. Women are more than five times as likely to develop the sometimes fatal cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple a person's risk of getting skin cancer. Every time the skin burns, permanent damage is inflicted.
In the mid-1970s, just 600 retirees in the United Kingdom were being diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Today, more than 5,700 elderly people are diagnosed with the skin disease annually.
"Many cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are preventable by taking precautions in the sun and making sure you don't burn," Julie Sharp, head of health information for the research group, explained in a press release.
"You can burn at home just as easily as you can on holiday, so remember to spend time in the shade, wear a T-shirt and a hat to protect your skin and regularly apply sunscreen that is at least Factor 15 and has four stars," Sharp added. "Swapping bad sun habits for good ones could save your life."
In the United Kingdom, regulators used a star-system to grade the relative effectiveness of sunscreen products. The American Cancer Society recommends using sunscreen with at least a rating of 30 SPF.
One of the retirees who didn't always adhere to today's recommendations is Sue Deans, a 69-year-old former teacher and mother of three, who found out she had malignant melanoma after her doctor removed a mysterious mole. Deans was re-diagnosed seven years later, after noticing a lump under her armpit.
"I was part of the generation where package holidays became affordable and you could go abroad nearly every year," Deans said. "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."
"I've always been quite body aware so my cancer was spotted early. I had successful surgery and have been healthy since -- but I'm always vigilant in keeping an eye out for anything unusual or persistent that might need to be checked. Now I make sure my grandson knows the dangers of getting caught out in the sun."