The global death rates for melanoma — most serious type of skin cancer — has seen a steep rise in men since 1985, with mortality rates among women rising more slowly or even declining, according to researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
It could be because men are less likely to protect themselves from the sun or engage with melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns, the researchers noted.
“The major risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sun exposure or from using sunbeds,” said Dorothy Yang, junior doctor at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, UK.
“Despite public health efforts to promote awareness of melanoma and encourage sun-smart behaviours, melanoma incidence has been increasing in recent decades,” Yang added.
The results were presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow.
For the study, the team studied death rates in the 33 countries between 1985 and 2015 considering an ageing population and other countries having a younger demographic.
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).
However, the Czech Republic was the only country where the team found a decrease in men’s melanoma death rate, where there was as estimated annual percentage decrease of 0.7 per cent between 1985 and 2015.
In addition, Israel and the Czech Republic experienced the largest decrease in mortality rates in women, — 23.4 per cent and 15.5 per cent respectively.
“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,” said Poulam Patel, Professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
However, more research is needed to understand the reason 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 behaviours, the team noted.