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Number of Scots diagnosed with skin cancer up 50% in a decade

The number of people with skin cancer has increased by more than 50% in the last decade, new figures reveal.

The sharp rise was disclosed as official statistics show that two out of every five people will have some form of cancer in their lifetime.

Cancer was diagnosed 30,125 times in 2011, up from 26,150 in 2001, attributed largely to being a result of having an ageing population.

Overall cancer rates in women rose 9% over the decade but fell 3% for men.

The most common forms of the disease for women are breast, lung and colorectal which make up almost three-fifths of cases (57%).

In men the most common forms are prostate, lung and colorectal which account for 53% of cases.

Lung cancer is still the most common form with 5,069 cases diagnosed in 2011, comprising 17% of all cancers. Diagnoses for men are down 14.3% but for women are up 19.9%.

Breast cancer was diagnosed in 4,604 cases and colorectal cancer in 3,986 cases.

Malignant melanoma was found in 1,202 cases, up 51.4% from 2001, making it the fifth most common form of cancer in Scotland. A bigger increase was recorded among men (57.8%) than women (45.8%).

The number of cases of kidney cancer was up 36% over the 10 years, with 835 people diagnosed in 2011. This includes a 51.2% increase among women.

The statistics also show a 13.7% increase in the number of women with breast cancer, while incidence of cancer of the body of the uterus was up 28.5%.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said that while more people are being diagnosed with cancer, other statistics show that more people are surviving the disease.

Separate figures show that the cancer mortality rate is down 12% over the decade.

An estimated 165,000 people - about 3% of the population in Scotland - have been diagnosed with cancer in the last 20 years and are still alive today.

Mr Neil said: "These figures show that more people in Scotland are getting cancer. However, it is important to note that while cases of cancer have risen, survival rates have increased, and this means more people are living longer after diagnosis.

"We are determined to do more to meet the challenge of rising cancer rates, including that posed by the ageing population.

"We know that more lives can be saved in Scotland through earlier detection, as the earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully.

"That is why we launched our Detect Cancer Early initiative last year, which aims to increase the early detection of cancer by 25% and save more than 300 lives a year by the end of the next parliamentary term.

"People can also reduce their risk of getting cancer by leading a healthier lifestyle. Small changes such as stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, taking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet including fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancer."

Opposition politicians demanded action from the Scottish Government in the wake of the figures.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "The figures show the huge impact cancer will have in every family in Scotland. With almost half of all Scots experiencing cancer at some point in their life, ensuring swift and effective treatment is critical.

"I'm pleased that many years of campaigning to get people screened and tested are paying off and that more people are surviving cancer. We should celebrate all the hard work and our NHS staff who have helped make such a difference.

"Scottish Labour want to ensure that if someone is suspected of having cancer that they get diagnosed more quickly. We want to see testing and diagnosis within two weeks of someone walking into their GP surgery.

"We're also concerned that Scots right now are being left on hidden cancer waiting lists. Under the SNP, the treatment guarantee ends after the first treatment. If you're waiting for follow-up treatment, such as radiotherapy, then there is no target for getting that treatment quickly. We don't know how long cancer patients are waiting for their full treatment course. That simply isn't good enough."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said the statistics "will not be news to the many families in Scotland whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer".

He urged the Government to do more to promote healthy living.

"Whilst it is an encouraging sign that mortality rates for cancer are falling, the trends within these statistics demonstrate the need for the Government and for us as individuals to do everything we can to avoid it," he said.

"The long-term decline in lung cancer in males has been attributed in part to fewer men smoking, where rises in other types of cancer have been pointed to an increase in obesity and alcohol consumption.

"The Scottish Government must do more to promote healthy lifestyles in Scotland. It is clear that Scotland's relationship with alcohol and food must change if we are to tackle the menace of cancer in our families and communities."

Elspeth Atkinson, Scotland director for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "It's good news more people are surviving cancer. However, this means there is more need than ever before to support those who are living with the long-term effects of the illness which can last long after treatment ends.

"There needs to be a cultural shift to make sure there is a much greater focus on the recovery, health and overall well-being of the 190,000 Scots currently living with or beyond cancer, especially with that number expected to double by 2030."

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