Fatal skin cancer in men increasesMen less likely to report melanomas

16 May 2006

More than 1,000 men are dying from skin cancer each year, in many cases because they are failing to check for tell-tale signs of the disease.

Over the last decade there has been a huge 31 per cent increase in the number of male deaths from melanoma, which kills around 1,800 people in the UK each year.

A new survey of around 2,000 men found that almost 60 per cent never check their backs - where skin cancer often occurs - to see if existing moles have changed or if new ones have appeared.

The under 24s and over 65s were the worst culprits, being the least likely to visit a doctor if they notice any changes in moles.

Although fewer men than women are diagnosed with malignant melanoma - the potentially fatal form of skin cancer - more men actually die from it. And research suggests this is largely due to the cancer not being diagnosed until a more advanced stage.

Suspect moles

Dr Catherine Harwood, Consultant Dermatologist for Cancer Research UK, which carried out the study, urged men to be aware of mole changes and act promptly.

'The thickness of a melanoma at diagnosis is very important in determining the outcome of the cancer. Men seem to be generally less aware of mole changes than women and as a result they often [get diagnosed] when the melanoma is already quite thick. Detecting a melanoma in its early stages means earlier treatment with a much better chance of survival,' she said.

Nine out of ten skin cancers are of the non-melanoma type and are easily treatable and unlikely to spread. But around 8,000 people a year in the UK develop malignant melanoma, which can be fatal.

This year's Cancer Research UK SunSmart campaign is targeting men in an effort to raise their awareness of skin cancer and the importance of reporting any skin changes to a doctor. It is also focussing on outdoor workers, who are likely to have more sun exposure than people who work in an office.

The campaign provides practical information about the changes that people need to look for when checking their skin. The SunSmart campaign urges people - especially the fair-skinned - to check their skin and any moles regularly to spot changes. The ABCD rule helps identify a melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: The two halves of a melanoma may not look the same
  • Border: Edges of a melanoma may be irregular, blurred or jagged
  • Colour: The colour of a melanoma may be uneven, with more than one shade
  • Diameter: Many melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter

Any changes in a mole, freckle or patch of normal skin that occur quickly over weeks or months should be taken seriously and a doctor consulted without delay.