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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Men more likely to die from skin cancer

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
man in sun

21st August 2013 - Death rates from malignant melanoma are 70% higher in men than women living in the UK, although a similar number of men and women develop the disease each year.

Malignant melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body. According to the latest figures from Cancer Research UK, each year 3.4 men per 100,000 compared with 2.0 women die from malignant melanoma.

However, the number of men and women diagnosed with malignant melanoma is similar, with 17.2 men per 100,000 compared with 17.3 women.

Cancer Research UK's figures indicate that 1,300 of the 6,200 men who develop melanoma each year will die, compared to 900 of 6,600 women diagnosed with the disease.

Although the incidence rates in men and women of developing melanoma have converged during the last decades, from the late 1980s onwards men have experienced a much faster increase in mortality rates than women, and the gap between the two genders is likely to continue to increase in the future.

Behind the gender gap

Cancer Research UK says research suggests the different death rates between men and women could be partially due to men waiting longer for a diagnosis, when melanoma is at a more advanced stage - but there also seems to be strong biological reasons behind the differences.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, says in a statement: "One of the reasons for the difference may be attitude towards seeing a doctor. We tend to be reluctant to 'waste the doctor's time - men are especially likely to put it off."

Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist, says, " and women tend to develop melanoma in different places - more often on the back and chest for men and on the arms and legs for women". She adds: "If melanoma does develop on your back then it may be more difficult to spot - asking your partner to check your back is a good idea."

Preventing skin cancer

Sara Hiom says, " Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged and, over time, this can lead to skin cancer."

The key risk factors for developing melanoma include:

  • Excessive exposure to UV from sunlight or sunbeds
  • Pale skin colour and a high number of moles
  • A family or personal history of the disease

Although a few minutes in the sun is good for getting vitamin D, the most important steps to take to prevent any type of skin cancer is to avoid overexposure to the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its hottest. If you need to be in the sun for long periods, wear clothing that provides protection including a hat to protect your face and scalp and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and that blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.

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