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Melanoma death rate 'higher in men'

Men are 70% more likely to die from malignant melanoma - the most serious type of skin cancer - than women, according to new figures.

This is despite similar numbers of men and women being diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK.

Cancer Research UK data shows 3.4 men per 100,000 die from malignant melanoma compared with two per 100,000 women.

This means that of the 6,200 men who develop melanoma each year, 1,300 die from the disease, compared with 900 of the 6,600 women.

The likelihood of getting the disease is similar between the sexes, with 17.2 men per 100,000 diagnosed compared with 17.3 women.

Since the early 1970s, death rates in men have increased by 185% compared to 55% in women, the charity said.

And it predicts death rates will continue to rise in men while remaining stable in women.

Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, Cancer Research UK dermatologist based at the University of Leeds, said: “Research has suggested the difference between the sexes could be in part because men are more likely to be diagnosed when melanoma is at a more advanced stage.

“But there also seem to be strong biological reasons behind the differences and we’re working on research to better understand why men and women’s bodies deal with their melanomas in different ways.

“We also know that men 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.

“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.”

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said key risk factors for melanoma include excessive exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds, a pale skin colour and high number of moles, and a family or personal history of the disease.

She added: “One of the reasons for the difference (between men and women) may be attitudes towards seeing a doctor. We tend to be reluctant to ‘waste’ the doctor’s time - men are especially likely to put it off.

“If something goes wrong with the car then you sort it out straight away. The same should go for you - if you, or your partner, notice any unusual or persistent changes then see your GP. The key thing is to get to know your skin and what’s normal for you so you’re more likely to notice something out of the ordinary.

“It’s also essential to take care not to burn, particularly given the sunny weather we’ve had this summer.

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

She recommends putting on a T-shirt in strong sun, seeking out shade and using a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and good UVA protection.

She added: “These habits are particularly important for young men and women, because it’s far better to prevent skin cancer in the first place.

“That means avoiding sunbeds as well as taking care in the sun. Research has shown that using sunbeds for the first time before 35 can increase your risk of malignant melanoma by nearly 60%.”

The new data is taken from 2011 - the most recent figures available.

 

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