Death rates from malignant melanoma are 70% higher in men than women, despite similar numbers being diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the latest figures from Cancer Research UK.
Each year in the UK, 3.4 men per 100,000 compared with 2.0 women die from malignant melanoma. But incidence rates are similar with 17.2 men per 100,000 diagnosed compared with 17.3 women.
This means that, of the 6,200 men who develop melanoma each year, 1,300 die from the disease, while 900 of the 6,600 women who develop it die.
The gap is predicted to widen in the future, with death rates from malignant melanoma on the increase in men but remaining stable for women.
Since the early 1970s, death rates in men have increased by 185% compared to a rise of only 55% in women. The key risk factors for melanoma include excessive exposure to UV from sunlight or sunbeds, pale skin colour and a high number of moles, and a family or personal history of the disease.
Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist based at the University of Leeds, said: "Research has suggested the difference between the sexes could be in part because men are more likely to be diagnosed when melanoma is at a more advanced stage.
"There also seem to be strong biological reasons behind the differences and we're working on research to better understand why men and women's bodies deal with their melanomas in different ways.
"We also know that men and women tend to develop melanoma in different places - more often on the back and chest for men and on the arms and legs for women."
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, added: "One of the reasons for the difference may be attitudes towards seeing a doctor. People tend to be reluctant to ‘waste the doctor's time - men are especially likely to put it off."
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