Hotter summers to fuel rise in skin cancers, doctors warn

Experts have warned that higher summer temperatures caused by the climate crisis will fuel an increase in cases of potentially fatal skin cancers such as melanoma.

The UK recorded its highest temperature of 40.2C last month as climate scientists stressed the heatwave was not a one-off and high temperatures are likely to become more frequent .

Now doctors are warning that the changing climate will cast a long shadow if people spend more time in the sun and have greater exposure to UV radiation.

“As a doctor who treats patients with melanoma, I am definitely concerned that a sustained trend towards hotter summers will lead to more melanoma cases and more melanoma deaths,” said Sarah Danson, professor of medical oncology at the University of Sheffield.

Julia Newton-Bishop, a clinical scientist who leads the melanoma research group at the University of Leeds, said: “Melanoma is essentially caused by sunburn and this climate is so extreme that I am concerned that sunburn will increase and later so will the incidence of melanoma.”.

According to data from Cancer Research UK, death rates from skin cancer among men in the UK have more than tripled since the 1970s, with increases also seen among women. It is thought the increase may be due to a number of factors, including increased sun exposure due to package holidays, with Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, warning that getting a sunburn only once in two years can triple the risk of skin cancer. .

Professor Dann Mitchell, an expert in climate science at the University of Bristol, pointed out that the relationship between warmer weather and health could be indirect. “One of the clearest signs of climate change is warmer temperatures, not just in summer, but year-round,” he said.

“This change in temperatures also changes behavior patterns, with people in the UK tending to go outside more when temperatures are warm. This leads to more exposure to sunlight throughout the year and, crucially, more exposure to the UV portion of this sunlight, which is a known risk factor for skin cancer.”

Mitchell added that the long-term health consequences of the climate crisis were not discussed enough.

“That’s because we can’t say that a specific heat wave caused a specific cancer. Rather, we link the increased cancer risk to the integration of many warmer days, with those warmer days more likely due to climate change human-induced,” he said, adding that more research was needed in the area.

Karis Betts, senior manager of health information at Cancer Research UK, said it was too early to know the impact of recent heatwaves on skin cancer cases, as the cancer usually takes many years to develop. yes

But, he added: “It is important to remember that it is the sun’s ultraviolet rays rather than its heat that cause sunburn and skin cancer. The sun can be strong enough to burn from mid-March to mid- October here in the UK, whether it’s a heat wave or not.”

Danson said a number of steps could be taken to reduce sun exposure and prevent sunburn, including staying completely out of the sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., sitting in the shade, covering up with shirts and hats and use and reapply sunscreen. .

“Anyone who has concerns about a new or changing mole should seek advice from their GP straight away as early diagnosis is really important and we have treatments available,” he said.

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