A study suggests that more than a quarter of a middle-aged person’s skin may have already made the first steps towards cancer. 

BBC News reports on an analysis of samples from 55 to 77 year olds which found more than 100 DNA mutations linked to cancer in every 1 sq cm of skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers and is caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunlight transforming healthy tissue into cancerous tissue. 

Dr Peter Campbell, the head of cancer genetics at Sanger, said: “The most surprising thing is just the scale, that a quarter to a third of cells had these cancerous mutations is way higher than we’d expect. It certainly changes my sun worshipping, but I don’t think we should be terrified.” 

One in five people will get skin cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that, if found and treated early, skin cancer has a better chance of being cured.

Dr Alan Worsley, from Cancer Research UK, commented: "Research like this could help uncover which specific mistakes are more likely to push a damaged skin cell into becoming a cancer. Although we all need some sun, avoid sunburn and skin damage when the sun is strong by spending time in the shade, covering up with clothing and using plenty of sunscreen."

The British Skin Foundation has set up a fundraising campaign called ‘It Takes 7’ to raise money for research into skin cancer. It is the most common form of cancer in the UK, and rates continue to rise. At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed annually, and the disease kills over 2,500 people each year in the UK. That equates to seven people every day. It Takes 7 is aimed at raising awareness of skin cancer as well as encouraging fundraising events. During June, it is asking people to give up something they enjoy for the entire month in exchange for sponsorship.  

Rebecca Morgan of Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team said: “We act for a number of clients whose cancer diagnosis has been delayed despite having symptoms for some time. The key to survival is early diagnosis. It is therefore important to raise awareness of the symptoms of skin cancer so that patients alert their doctor and receive the appropriate treatment as soon as possible in order to ensure the best chance of survival.”