Cheap flights linked to increase in melanoma risk

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Experts are linking a recent increase in melanoma skin cancer to the availability of cheap airfare.

The rise of package vacations in the 1970s and the more recent surge in cheap flights to sunny destinations have seen a growing trend of people going abroad, sometimes several times a year, where the sun can potentially be stronger, said Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.

"Many people want to try to get a tan on their vacations without realizing that it is actually putting them at risk of permanent sun damage," she said. “While some might think that a tan is a sign of good health, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, it’s actually your body trying to protect itself from harmful rays."

She encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and adopt sun-safe behaviors.

In the past 30 years in the U.S., more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

Dr. Anne Chapas, a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, said, "We now have a more mobile society — cheap flights to islands and more outdoor and leisure activities. Even in the winter, people are getting tan.”

Awareness of melanoma skin cancer is also increasing, meaning more people are being diagnosed with, and treated for, the disease.

Protect your skin

Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage DNA in skin cells and cause skin cancer. The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation and there are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin:

UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns and can cause skin cancer

UVA penetrates deep into the skin. It ages the skin but contributes much less towards sunburn and can cause skin cancer

When the sun is strong, it’s important to remember three pieces of key advice:

Seek shade — When the sun is strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Cover up — Wear a T-shirt, hat, and sunglasses

Apply sunscreen — Sunscreen should be ratedat least SPF 15. Use it generously, re-apply regularly, and use in combination with shade and clothing.

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