Image by Neil. Moralee
Men ‘more at risk of skin cancer’
by JENNY HOPE, Daily Mail
As soon as the sun starts to get warm in spring, many men rush to strip off their shirts in search of an early tan.
But if they fail to use protection they are risking their lives from the most serious form of skin cancer, warn doctors.
Cases of malignant melanoma in men have spiralled by 12 per cent in the past six years, says the charity Cancer Research UK.
The rate of increase is six times higher than in women who have started to cut their risk by taking precautions for themselves and their children against the potentially deadly effects of the sun.
The launch of the SunSmart 2002 campaign comes as much of Britain is expected to bask in a sunny spell over the Easter weekend.
Exposure to the sun is responsible for triggering malignant melanoma in up to 80 per cent of sufferers.
Each year about 6,000 Britons including 2,500 men are diagnosed with the disease and more than 1,600 people die each year.
Experts are worried that the traditional gap between melanoma rates for men and women is narrower now than it has been for 25 years.
In the 1990s rates in women increased by just two per cent.
Dr Charlotte Proby, a dermatologist at Cancer Research UK, said the quest for a tan by women had in the past led to higher rates of skin cancer.
Women’s magazines had succeeded in putting across health messages about skin care in the sun but men were failing to heed similar warnings, she said.
A possible reason for the increase of melanomas in men is that they tend to occur more commonly on the back, whereas in women they are often on the lower leg and so are more noticeable.
‘Men also do not examine their skin as much and are less likely to seek medical attention,’ said Dr Proby.
An increase in foreign travel and outdoor activities such as water sports might also be to blame.
Researchers say survival rates for the disease are worse among men than women over a five-year period, although the chances of a cure are good if it the condition is caught early.
Dr Proby said: ‘Melanoma is a skin mole that’s gone funny and you need to recognise this early.’
Worrying signs to look out for are changes in the shape, colour and size of moles.
Dr Proby urged people to seek advice from their doctor within two weeks of noticing any changes in moles.
It was also important to dispel the myth that people need large amounts of sunshine to be healthy, she added.
‘The average person can get the adequate amount of vitamin D just by walking to and from work,’ she said.
She warned that people with skin that does not tan easily should not even try to get a tan because they would probably develop tan spots which were signs of irreversible skin damage.
Risk levels for melanomas are a combination of factors including a family history of melanoma, sun exposure and sun sensitivity, especially among those with a tendency to freckling and poor tanning, and fair colouring.
A sun lotion with a sun protection factor of 15 or more and a four-star UVA rating is recommended.
Since the 1970s, malignant melanoma has seen the fastest increase in incidents of the major cancers, and Cancer Research UK said it was considering campaigns tailored specifically for men.