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Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. SUR
Skin cancer cases soar by 40% in last four years in Malaga and on the sunny Costa del Sol

Skin cancer cases soar by 40% in last four years in Malaga and on the sunny Costa del Sol

Health ·

The incidence rate of melanoma in the province is more than double the officially recognised average in Spain

Iván Gelibter

Malaga

Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 18:04

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Cases of skin cancer have increased in Malaga province by more than 40 per cent in the last four years, with more than 6,000 people diagnosed with the disease in the last year.

The head of the dermatology department at the Regional hospital in Malaga city, Leandro Martínez, has warned this will be the "great epidemic" of the coming years, as it is estimated that by 2040 it will be the second most common tumour, globally, or even the first.

Skin cancer is a malignant disease caused by the uncontrolled division and growth of the cells that form it, with the capacity to invade surrounding healthy tissues and structures and, in some cases, other organs at a distance. Although it is common to speak of skin cancer, there are several types, among which are melanomas (the most serious) and non-melanoma skin carcinomas, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Most of the cancers diagnosed are of the latter, although melanoma cases also continue to grow.

The incidence rate of melanoma in the province is more than double the officially recognised average in Spain. "In the province we do not have exact absolute figures, but what is striking is that when we extrapolate cases, we see that in Spain there is an average of 14/16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Malaga it is close to 30," said Martínez. He posited that the reason for this is due to the greater number of sunny days.

As for the general increase in skin cancers, Leandro Martínez said that it is due to the increase in outdoor recreational and leisure activities. To this must be added climate change, which causes even more sunny days. "There is a greater culture of photoprotection, such as the use of sunscreen and less exposure at dangerous hours, but at the same time we are spending more hours under ultraviolet light," he said.

"More and more young people are getting sunburnt. It's an epidemic," Martínez added.

Coinciding with International Skin Cancer Day, the Regional hospital held a conference on Tuesday to raise awareness of this disease. The specialist in dermatology and head of the hospital's service, Enrique Herrera Acosta, explained that the main risk factor involved in its appearance is solar radiation, especially type B (UVB) and type A (UVA). He said that in the skin "these radiations are capable of producing mutations in the genetic material of the cells that make up the epidermis and prevent their repair, initiating the process of carcinogenesis or the formation of cancer".

Herrera Acosta added that the incidence of melanoma has increased fifteenfold in the last 50 years due to the lack of awareness of this disease and the lack of prevention when exposing oneself to the sun. In the European Union, 36,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, resulting in 12,000 deaths; in Spain, 2,000 new patients are diagnosed each year and more than 700 deaths are recorded.

The incidence of melanoma at the Regional hospital has seen an increase over the last decade. In 2022 alone, the hospital's dermatology department diagnosed 170 new cases of melanoma. After Murcia, Malaga province has the second highest mortality rate from melanoma.

Prevention is still the best way to avoid skin tumours. Early diagnosis allows up to 95% of cases to be cured, which is why it is "fundamental" to carry out regular check-ups to detect any skin alterations.

Melanoma, being a highly aggressive tumour that without proper treatment can be life-threatening, has the potential to have a significant negative impact on the psychological health and quality of life of patients. In view of this, the Regional hospital is developing a study to assess the impact of this disease on the patient and their family environment, in which more than a hundred patients have already participated. The main objective of this study is to work on measures to prevent and treat the psychological stress associated with melanoma in order to improve the quality of life of those affected.

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