Cases of skin cancer in men treble in 20 years

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Cases of skin cancer among men in Britain have trebled in the past two decades, according to new research.

Cases of skin cancer among men in Britain have trebled in the past two decades, according to new research.

A study published on The Lancet website shows that the incidence of invasive skin cancer increased from 3.5 cases per 100,000 in 1979 to 10.5 cases per 100,000 in 1998.

Among women, the incidence of malignant melanomas almost doubled, rising from seven cases per 100,000 to 13.1 during the same period. But from 1995 onwards, the increase levelled off among women to the point where there was no growth.

The study of 8,830 Scottish patients shows the number of men who were still alive five years after diagnosis rose from 58 to 80 per cent. Among women, the five-year survival rate grew more modestly, from 74 to 85 per cent.

Mortality rates among men of all ages remained at 1.9 per 100,000 people a year throughout the study. But among men who were aged below 65 at diagnosis, rates rose slightly from 1.2 to 1.35 per 100,000. Among women, the death rate declined from 1.9 to 1.85 per 100,000 people a year and for women younger than 65 at diagnosis, mortality fell from 1.3 to 1.15.

The research, carried out at Glasgow University's department of dermatology, suggests that women have been quicker to heed warnings to avoid excessive sunlight and to seek help if they notice abnormalities on their skin.

Professor Rona MacKie, who led the study, said: "There has been a steady and continuing rise in the incidence of invasive melanoma in both sexes. The rate of increase was more rapid in men than women, and occurred in melanomas of all thicknesses in men. In women, only melanomas thinner than 1.5mm increased in incidence.

"Women respond more frequently than men to secondary prevention activities and this result could suggest that secondary prevention campaigns result in earlier diagnosis."

The incidence of skin cancer has been increasing in many parts of the world, including Australia, the US and Scandinavia. In Scottish men, melanoma incidence increased most on the trunk, head, and neck, and in women the biggest increase was on the legs.

The authors of the study said that public behaviour was slowly changing but the message to avoid excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation still needed to be hammered home.

Professor MacKie said: "Our data shows that while the number of people in Scotland who develop melanoma is increasing each year, they appear to be recognising that they have a problem and are seeking treatment at an earlier stage. This explains the fact that mortality from melanoma has changed very little over the past 20 years. We still need to encourage a change in sun- exposure behaviour which ... should lead to a reduction in melanoma incidence."

In Australia, skin cancer rates among women born after 1950 have levelled off in response to public education, but no similar decline is evident in Scotland. The study says: "Extensive public education on ultraviolet radiation as a cause of melanoma began in Australia 20 years before the UK, thus, trends in this age-range [those born in the 1970s] during the 20 years should be monitored."