Each year 39,000 people are informed that they have the disease. Dermatologist Thomas Maselis is not surprised. He believes Flemings don’t venture out into the outdoors enough all year round, but spend too much time in the sun when they are on holiday.
"Belgians are insufficiently aware of the risks posed by the sun" says the Belgian president of Euromelanoma, the organisation of GPs that campaigns on this issue.
"We are not behaving properly when it comes to sunlight and in particular to UV light. Most Belgians spend most of the year indoors working. In the winter when we venture out, we wear a hat, a scarf and gloves. Our skin that is often pale is rarely exposed to the sun."
"When Belgians go on holiday, all this is thrown out of the window; we spend ten days in the sun in our swimming trunks. Kids are popped into the swimming pool where they don't notice they are getting sunburnt”.
Belgians have been following this bad holiday routine for half a century now. Add the frequent use of tanning beds towards the end of the last century and this explains the surge in skin cancer cases: "Between erroneous behaviour in the sun and the development of skin cancer, there is a space of up to thirty years" says Thomas Maselis.