May 15, 2006

UK Male Deaths from Melanoma Skin Cancer Rising Fast

LONDON (Reuters) - Male deaths in Britain from melanoma skin cancer have risen 31 percent in the past decade to more than 1,000 a year, according to figures released on Tuesday.

Fewer men than women are diagnosed with melanoma but more die of the illness because it is usually detected later, when it is more advanced.

"Men seem to be generally less aware of mole changes than women and as a result they often present (themselves) when the melanoma is already quite thick," said Dr Catherine Harwood, of the charity Cancer Research UK which published the figures.

Skin cancer is caused by over-exposure to the ultraviolet light from the sun.

Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous of the three forms and also the rarest. It accounts for roughly 10 percent of reported cases of skin cancer and can spread throughout the body to form secondary tumors.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of the disease but is rarely life-threatening. Squamous cell carcinoma spreads less rapidly and causes fewer deaths than melanoma.

Figures from the charity show 1,777 people, including 1,002 men, die from melanoma each year in Britain. It is the second-fastest rising cancer in men after prostate. Cases of melanoma have risen 42 percent in the last decade while prostate cancer has increased 48 percent.

Sweden and Denmark have among the highest rates of melanoma in the European Union while Greece, Latvia and Cyprus have some of the lowest.

Worldwide, the incidence of melanoma is roughly doubling every 10-20 years in countries with white populations, the charity said.

Melanomas in men are found most frequently on the trunk, followed by the head, neck, arm and leg. But a survey of 2,000 men conducted by the charity showed almost 60 percent never check their back for new moles or changes in existing moles.

Almost 70 percent of men questioned in the survey said they did not think they were at risk of skin cancer although one third of them admitted they had suffered from sunburn.

The poll also revealed that men under 24 years old and over 65 were the least likely to visit a doctor if they discovered changes or a new mole.

"Detecting a melanoma in its early stages means earlier treatment with a much better chance of survival," Harwood added.

The charity urged people to be aware of changes in the skin including a new growth or a spot or mole that itches, hurts, bleeds or won't heal.