Men's Melanoma Death Rates Rising, Women's Steady or Falling

Nicky Broyd

November 06, 2018

According to research presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, the rate of men dying from malignant melanoma has risen around the world, while in some countries the rates are steady or falling for women.

The study was carried out by Dr Dorothy Yang, a junior doctor at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. She says work will continue to identify why the difference exists but: "There is evidence that suggests men are less likely to protect themselves from the sun or engage with melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns."

Observational Study Findings

The researchers focused on 33 countries (including the UK) with the most reliable data gathered by the World Health Organisation between 1985 and 2015. They studied age-standardised death rates and extracted the rates for malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

They found:

  • Melanoma death rates in men were rising in all but one country, the Czech Republic

  • In all countries, the rates were higher in men than in women

  • The highest 3-year average death rates for 2013 to 2015 were found in Australia (5.72 per 100,000 men and 2.53 per 100,000 women) and Slovenia (3.86 in men and 2.58 in women), the lowest was in Japan (0.24 in men and 0.18 in women)

  • Israel and the Czech Republic experienced the largest decreases in mortality rates in women, 23.4% and 15.5% respectively

Reaction

Professor Poulam Patel, chair of the NCRI skin cancer clinical studies group, who was not involved with the research, said: "This research shows that death rates for melanoma are stabilising or decreasing in some countries, particularly for women, but in almost all countries there was an increase in death rates over the past 30 years in men. This is an important finding that requires further scrutiny.

"These results also suggest that melanoma will continue to be a health issue over the coming years, and we will need to find effective strategies to accurately diagnose and successfully treat patients."

Also reacting to the study findings, Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, said: "We know that 9 in 10 people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in the UK survive their disease for at least 10 years. And a growing and ageing population means that more people are being diagnosed with the disease than ever before.

"This study shows that death rates for men have increased but more investigation is needed to find why. Once we know the answer, researchers may recommend targeting men with information about how to reduce their risk of skin cancer such as advice on staying safe in the sun and getting any new moles or blemishes - or changes to existing ones - checked out by a doctor."

Dr Yang and colleagues suggest "more public health efforts targeted at men may be needed to raise awareness of the disease and of sun-smart behaviours".

2018 NCRI Cancer Conference, Glasgow. Abstract number 1952, ‘Trends in mortality from malignant melanoma: an observational study of the World Health Organisation mortality database from 1985 to 2015,’ Dorothy Yang et al.

This research received no external funding.

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