Men urged to keep shirts on as skin cancer cases rise 50pc

The rates of skin cancer among men have increased almost 50 per cent in a decade, analysis shows, as a charity warned men should keep their shirts on while out in the sun.

Figures analysed by Cancer Research UK show that while UK rates for melanoma among women have risen by 30 per cent over 10 years, they have increased by 47 per cent for men.

There has also been an 8 per cent increase in death rates for men over the same time period, compared with a 5 per cent drop for women.

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 16,200 new cases each year.

The data breakdown shows that melanoma skin cancer incidence rates in men have risen from 20 cases per 100,000 people in 2005-2007 to 29 cases per 100,000 in 2015-2017, the most recent data available.

This compares to 19 cases per 100,000 people in 2005-2007 for women, rising to 25 cases per 100,000 in 2015-2017.

Men are also more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer at a later stage than women.

Changes are often found on their torso, potentially caused by going shirtless, according to Cancer Research UK.

The charity said this can make it harder to spot unusual changes, such as moles on the back.

Nicola Smith, Senior Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK said: “There are certainly more skin cancers on the torso among men, so going shirtless could be playing a part there.

“Also, it could be related to outdoor work or activities like being on the beach, swimming, where that part of your body is being exposed more.

“And it’s obviously a part of the body that is not exposed as often and where the real risk is for melanoma is when you’ve got intermittent sun exposure, where you aren’t exposed for a long time but then you’ve got a really intense period where you get significant burns on an area that’s not normally exposed.”

She added that it is “really important” to protect your body, using clothing, SPF and shade.

“It’s important for both men and women to think about using clothing to stay safe in the sun, covering up and spending time in the shade are two of the best ways to prevent skin cancers,” she said.

These latest figures represent behaviours from five to ten years ago as cancer can take time to develop, Ms Smith said.

“We’re not necessarily seeing the impact of current levels of protection awareness in these stats, and it may be that if that improves over time that we can see a shift,” she added.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: "These figures are worrying – getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of skin cancer, so it’s important that everyone knows how to protect themselves.

"Seeking shade, covering up and applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and four or five stars both regularly and generously can help you to stay safe in the sun.

"With staycations looking to be the norm for many this year, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that UK sun can be every bit as strong as when we are abroad.

"The same advice still applies, and if something doesn’t feel right or you notice any changes to your skin, talk to your GP."

According to Cancer Research UK, almost nine in 10 cases of melanoma are preventable.

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer

The British Association of Dermatologists uses the ‘ABCDE’ acronym to help people recognise skin changes that could indicate a melanoma: 

  • Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape
  • Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
  • Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
  • Diameter – melanomas will progressively change. If you see any mole, or ‘mole-like’ mark getting bigger over a period of weeks to months, tell your doctor
  • Expert – if in doubt, check it out. If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a consultant dermatologist – your GP can refer you via the NHS

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