News

Tanning nicely thanks

This year’s annual European Cancer Congress has been told that by 2050 the death rate from malignant melanoma will be less than today – but the total number of people dying from it will be higher than today, due to ageing populations.

The age bracket at highest risk of dying from melanoma was born between 1900 and 1960, because UV radiation from sunlight – a good suntan – was thought to be unquestionably beneficial. The discovery of vitamin D in 1922 – named by Elmer McCollum, the US biochemist – and its usefulness in preventing rickets ensured that people got as much sun as they could.

Until it became clear, around the 1960s, that too much UV radiation caused skin cancer.

Death rates from melanoma peaked around 2015 for Australian men and 1990 for Australian women; around 2005 and 1995 for US men and women respectively; and around 2010 in both Swedish men and women.

Picture source: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA