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Huge increase in numbers surviving skin cancer

Eight out of 10 now survive the disease

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 22 July 2013

More than eight out of 10 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma will now survive the disease, compared to only around five in 10 in the early 70s.

These findings come from a new report from Cancer Research UK. Ten year survival has reached 80% in men and 90% in women, compared to 38% in men and 58% in women 40 years ago.

The improvements in survival are likely to be down to improvements in treatment, early diagnosis and awareness of the symptoms.

Nearly 13,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year in the UK, that’s around 35 people every day.

Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research based at the University of Manchester, said: “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.

“Research funded by Cancer Research UK has underpinned the development of new drugs like vemurafenib. Although these drugs do not cure skin cancers, they can give patients with advanced melanoma valuable extra months and show the progress we are making.”

Commenting on the figures, Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Cancer Research UK research was behind the discovery that faults in a gene called BRAF contribute to over half of all cases of melanoma. Since then, our scientists have led efforts to develop drugs that target this gene.”

However, he described skin cancer as ‘one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK’.

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