Melanoma rates rising for men, but not women

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If you’re a man, you’re at greater risk of malignant melanoma than women, according to new research that looked at data from 33 countries.

Melanoma is among the most common types of cancer and is also the most deadly form of skin cancer. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the rate of men dying from the disease is rising while in many countries, death rates from melanoma are static or falling for women.

“We wanted to conduct an up-to-date analysis of recent melanoma mortality rates across the world to try to understand these patterns, and whether new diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies are having any effect,” said Dr. Dorothy Yang of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, who presented the findings at the 2018 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference.

Yang and other researchers say more study is needed to understand the reasons for this trend, but in the meantime, more public health efforts targeted at men may be needed to raise awareness of the disease and of sun-smart behaviors.


“The major risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sun exposure or from using sunbeds,” Yang said in a news release. “Despite public health efforts to promote awareness of melanoma and encourage sun-smart behaviors, melanoma incidence has been increasing in recent decades.”

Yang said evidence “suggests men are less likely to protect themselves from the sun or engage with melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns.”

About the study

The researchers studied age-standardized death rates in the 33 countries between 1985 and 2015. These rates take into account the effects of some countries having an aging population and others having a younger demographic. They extracted the rates for malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. They compared the rates for men and women and looked at trends over time.

In all countries, the rates were higher in men than in women. Overall, the highest three-year average death rates for 2013 to 2015 were found in Australia (5.72 per 100,000 men and 2.53 per 100,000 in women) and Slovenia (3.86 in men and 2.58 in women), with the lowest in Japan (0.24 in men and 0.18 in women).

The Czech Republic was the only country where the researchers found a decrease in men’s melanoma death rate, where there was as estimated annual percentage decrease of 0.7% between 1985 and 2015. Israel and the Czech Republic experienced the largest decreases in mortality rates in women, 23.4% and 15.5% respectively.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for ConsumerAffairs.com and FairfaxNews.com.