Increasing number of melanoma cases

In May 2009, researchers from Stanford University Medical Centre announced worrying results from a 12 year long study on skin cancer. The study showed that over the last 12 years the incidence of malignant melanoma skin cancer has raised rapidly by 3.1% every year, which represents an additional 70,596 new malignant melanoma cases over the study period.

This study is particularly worrying as malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, associated with exposure to sun and other sources of ultra violet light, such as sun beds.

Despite a marked increase in reported cases in men over the age of 65, the incidence of malignant melanoma still continues to blight more women than men, with a third more women suffering from malignant melanoma than men overall.

These findings support and confirm Dr Lowe's long held views on what he believes to be the silent and potentially deadly skin ager - UVA. Fifteen years ago, Dr Lowe carried out research proving that even in small amounts, UVA directly damages skin. This study was published in the prestigious Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Dr Lowe believes the reason we are seeing the increase in melanoma now is because the older sunscreens and some existing face creams do not protect well against UVA. "People may have been using high factor suncare but unknown to them, they were only being protected against UVB".

"UVA may be responsible at least partly for melanoma," says Dr Lowe. "This is very worrying to me, as the modern tanning beds are almost completely high intensity UVA." "You have to protect your skin even when the sun is not shining from harmful UVA rays," he said.