Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 08:05 BST on Friday, 27th July 2012.
Cumbernauld's Tesco superstore to take part in cancer awareness drive

Cumbernauld’s Tesco superstore is to help Cancer Research UK, in an awareness drive following the announcement that skin cancer rates have tripled in middle-aged Scots.

Scotland has seen a dramatic increase in the number of men and women in their 50s diagnosed with malignant melanoma, new figures from Cancer Research UK revealed earlier this week.  

Over the last 30 years the rates of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – have tripled in the country’s 50-59 age groups, meaning that around four people in their 50s are now diagnosed in Scotland every week. 

The rise marks a significant change since the end of the 1970s, when there were around nine cases of malignant melanoma per 100,000 people in their 50s, but this has increased to around 29 per 100,000.

The soaring rates of skin cancer have prompted Tesco to launch a new in-store awareness campaign with Cancer Research UK, as part of their ‘Charity of the Year’ partnership.

Cancer Research UK leaflets about the early signs of skin cancer and advice on preventing the disease will be available to customers in Tesco pharmacies and cafes, including in the cafe in Cumbernauld’s Tesco Extra store.

The goal of the partnership is to raise awareness of the early signs of cancer – including malignant melanoma – because the earlier it is diagnosed the better the chance people have of beating the disease.

Tesco is also committed to raising £10 million to fund 32 Cancer Research UK early diagnosis projects around the UK.

One of the projects benefiting from the Tesco Charity of the Year partnership is being carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh who are finding new ways to help people recognise the signs of skin cancer earlier.

The team, led by Professor Jonathan Rees, want to see if using web-based images could be more successful at helping people recognise abnormalities than existing information.

Professor Jonathan Rees said: “People's idea of what skin cancer looks like is limited to three or four images that are widely used to promote awareness of the disease – but we don't think this goes far enough with helping people identify the problem and going to their doctor.

“With support from Tesco, the team in Edinburgh are working to use the internet and the potential it offers to access many images. It’s a bit like bird spotting – using pictures as a guide to what malignant melanoma could look like and helping people make a better decision about seeing their doctor.

“Scottish skin isn’t designed for sunshine and it’s worrying that melanoma rates are on the rise. But, if caught early, melanoma can be treated very successfully so if we can develop a better system of encouraging people to go to the doctor, this could potentially save a great deal of lives.”

Around 1,100 people of all ages are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in Scotland every year, whilst around 200 people die from the disease, with more than 25 in their 50s.

Thirty years ago malignant melanoma was the fifteenth most common cancer among people in their fifties in Scotland, now it is the fifth most common in this age group. 

Linda Summerhayes, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Scotland, said: “If people are diagnosed when the cancer is in the early stages, before it has had a chance to spread around the body, treatment is more likely to be successful. 

“Through our campaign with Tesco, we want to highlight the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and encourage people to visit their doctor promptly if they notice any unusual changes in their skin.

“Tesco and Cancer Research UK are passionate about fighting cancer and by working together we aim to get the early diagnosis message across to millions of people this summer.”