Buy the Booklet
The Man Manual - men's health made easy (in print)
Women are more likely to get skin cancer than men. But men are more likely to die from it.
It is cancer that begins in the skin. There are two types:
Survival rates are improving but skin cancer especially melanoma can kill if it is not caught quickly.
Six people die every day in the UK from melanoma and 1.5 people a day from non-melanoma — men die more often than women.
The problem is that we are increasingly likely to develop skin cancer. Melanoma rates have increased 400% since the 1970s. This is the fastest rise of any major cancer in the UK.
It also affects men of all ages - rates are increasing among both younger and older men.
Keep an eye on your moles. You have umpteen moles and marks on your skin. It’s important to know how to spot when one of them has turned cancerous. The NHS have developed a checklist called the ABCDE:
If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, see your GP. There’s only one thing between death and survival: early diagnosis.
Men are most likely to develop a melanoma on the chest or back (women on the legs).
Mainly we’re getting more sun. Rates have always been higher in sunnier areas such as the south-west of England. (The number of new cases in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset is double the England average.) And skin cancer is one of the few cancers you’re more likely to get if you’re rich than poor.
Exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) is the main cause of the disease. The sun is our main source of UV so changing our behaviour slightly can reduce our risk enormously.
Some sunlight is good for you - it boosts vitamin D - but sun-bathing should be kept to a minimum.
Think about other places you might be exposed to the sun:
Tanning devices and sun beds also increase your risk. (They can be even worse than the sun as the radiation is more concentrated.)
Your personal risk depends on your family history. Malignant melanoma risk is doubled in people with a family history of the same disease.
It also depends on your skin and hair type.
As a rule, the more freckles/moles you have the lighter your skin type and the more you should stay out of the sun.
If you use sunscreen, the NHS say to make sure it is suitable for your skin type and blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. They recommend a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Reapply every two hours and use waterproof sunscreen if in the water.
David was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his face after his dentist persuaded him to get a strange-looking mole checked out. He said: ’I never really thought about the possibility of getting skin cancer, even though I’m fair skinned and burn easily – and I think many men are the same.
'I’m not a sun worshipper, but as a construction site worker I spend about 40 per cent of my working life outdoors. The company I worked for said we had to wear T shirts and long trousers to help protect our skin, but it was still easy to get caught out and forget the strength of the sun sometimes.'
Surgery. The NHS spends a fortune on skins cancer care in hospitals - about £95million in 2014. This is mostly to cut out cancers and do skin grafts and flaps to cover up the damage. Best avoided.
In England, hospital admissions for skin cancer rose by a third in the five years to 2011.
David had surgery to remove the melanoma from the side of his face leaving him with a large scar and stretched skin. He says now: 'Whatever they might think, men don’t look like wimps if they use sun protection and they certainly don’t look good resembling a boiled lobster.
'I am definitely more aware of protecting my skin from sunburn now, and always remind my mates to put on sunscreen, stick a cap on and keep an eye on their skin. I’m lucky that my melanoma was spotted early but the disease can be deadly.’
Date of last review 02/09/14
Date of next review 02/09/17
It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. Especially during a major pandemic like Covid-19. So we’re asking.
Men appear more likely to get Covid-19 and far, far more likely to die from it. The Men's Health Forum are working hard pushing for more action on this from government, from health professionals and from all of us. Why are men more affected and what can we do about it? We need the data. We need the research. We need the action. Currently we're the only UK charity doing this - please help us.
Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.