Jeremy Hunt describes his fight with disease that killed his parents

‘I’m blessed my cancer was caught quickly’: Jeremy Hunt describes his fight with the disease that killed his parents – and has now struck his brother too

  • READ MORE: Hunt hopes UK research will ‘lift curse of cancer from humanity’

Jeremy Hunt today reveals how his family has been devastated by cancer – and urges Britain to lead the global fight against the disease.

In his first interview on his experiences with the ‘C word’, the Chancellor says he was ‘blessed’ that his own skin cancer was found and treated early by the NHS.

But he tells how his immediate family has been ravaged by the illness amid warnings that half of Britons will get it in their lifetimes. 

He reveals that cancer killed both his parents – and has hit his brother Charlie – and says he understands the ‘much tougher battles’ many Britons face and how terrible it can be.

Mr Hunt says early diagnosis is key to improving survival rates and would save the NHS billions if more cases were caught sooner. 

Jeremy Hunt today reveals how his family has been devastated by cancer – and urges Britain to lead the global fight against the disease

The Chancellor (pictured with his wife Lucia) says he was ‘blessed’ that his own skin cancer was found and treated early by the NHS

He reveals that cancer killed both his parents (his father Nicholas pictured right) – and has hit his brother Charlie (pictured left)

He also speaks of his hope that British research will turn the tide on the disease, with a million NHS patients set to trial a blood test to trace the deadliest types of disease. 

The former health secretary agreed to speak out about his family’s ordeal in support of the Mail’s ongoing cancer campaigns, including its sponsorship of this year’s Race for Life. 

He reveals his own cancer diagnosis came after he noticed a mole on his head which ‘grew and grew’.

Hospital tests confirmed he had basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer, and needed to have it removed. While the prognosis was always positive, he says it gave him some insight into the experiences of the 375,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year.

READ MORE: Jeremy Hunt reveals how he hopes UK research will ‘lift the curse of cancer from humanity’

Mr Hunt’s interview comes after Cancer Research UK revealed cases of melanoma could increase by nearly 50 per cent over the next 20 years, hitting a record 26,500 annual diagnoses by 2040.

Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of developing skin cancer, they said. 

The charity blamed the cheap package holiday boom of the 1960s for a rise in a serious type of skin cancer among older adults, with 17,500 people diagnosed each year in the UK.

It pointed to a particular rise in cases among adults aged 55 and over, who would have been born from the year 1968 onward. 

Case rates among this age group have nearly tripled since the 1990s.

While overall cancer survival rates are improving, experts predict the number of people diagnosed in the UK will rise by a third by 2040, taking the number of new cases every year to more than half a million. 

The NHS is investing £2.3billion to expand diagnostics services by rolling out more ‘one stop shops’ and lung cancer screening trucks in supermarket car parks to increase early diagnosis.

It is also expanding its ‘teledermatology’ services, which involve using a small lens attached to a phone camera, allowing dermatologists to double their daily footfall of patients.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national director for cancer, said: ‘The Chancellor’s experience underlines why it is so important for people to not put off speaking to a clinician, and why the NHS has put so much effort into increasing the early diagnosis of cancer, when the disease is easier to treat.

‘We would strongly urge anyone with worrying symptoms to speak to their GP to get checked out, as it could save their life.’

Why skin cancer is at record levels 

By Justine Hextall, Consultant Dermatologist

By revealing his diagnosis and treatment for skin cancer, Jeremy Hunt has given us a timely reminder at the start of the summer holidays about the dangers of overdoing it in the sun.

In the UK we are seeing record levels of skin cancer in the over-55s. Melanoma is the most serious form of the disease although survival rates are improving. People must act immediately if they notice a new suspicious mole or one that has changed colour or shape. If not treated early, it can spread through the body.

Worryingly, I am seeing more and more patients with melanoma. Very often, I learn that they were sunburnt as a child: childhood sunburn is a significant risk factor for both melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma which may be why we are seeing so many over-55s in dermatology clinics: they are the first generation who regularly went abroad for summer holidays.

Today, it’s reassuring to see many children with UV suits, sun hats and high-factor sun cream. But in the 1970s and 1980s many people, including children, wore low factor or none at all, unaware how fragile children’s skin is.Red, sore, or tight skin signifies damage, even if you don’t blister or peel. Just one afternoon of carelessness on the beach could come back to haunt you decades later.

I suggest wearing a broad-spectrum sun cream that protects from both UVA and UVB rays all year. Factor 50 is the minimum I recommend for all ages and I always suggest supplementing with vitamin D3 in the autumn and winter months in the UK. People don’t realise that by walking the dog every day they are exposing themselves to potentially harmful UVB in spring and summer and UVA rays all year.

Justine Hextall works for the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust