Men’s melanoma skin cancer rates have increased by 50% over the last decade in the UK

A recent report published by Cancer Research UK1 comments on a worrying trend that men’s melanoma skin cancer rates have increased by 50% over the last decade in the UK. Cancer Research UK also reports that women's rates have also risen by 30% during the same period, with men more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than women. Typically, men’s skin cancers are often found on their torso (see the image below) which Cancer Research UK has suggested could be explained by the fact that men are more likely to go shirtless in the summer months.

Skin Cancer Risk per Gender

Typical risk factors for skin cancer

Your skin type is a major contributing factor to your risk of sun damage and developing skin cancer. Certain skin types are at greater risk of sun damage and therefore have a higher risk of developing the disease. However, all skin types can be damaged by over-exposure to UV radiation, but if you have any of the following ‘risk factors’ listed below you need to be extra vigilant:

  • Previous history of a skin cancer
  • A family history of melanoma
  • A large number of moles (10 times risk if >100 moles)
  • Abnormal or irregular moles
  • Born with a congenital mole
  • Freckles
  • Skin that tends to burn rather than go brown
  • A history of blistered sunburn
  • Excessive ultraviolet exposure
  • Living in a hot, sunny climate
  • Living close to the equator
  • Going on sunny holidays
  • Use of sunbeds
  • Lowered immune system

At-risk groups due to occupation and recreational activities

Whilst we are all at risk from skin cancer there are certain groups that are considered to be at greater risk due to their occupation and recreational activities.

Outdoor workers

While occupational risks are inherent in many jobs, people who make a living outdoors are often in the sun and will be subject to an increased threat of skin cancer from repeated over-exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Outdoor sports

Whether playing, watching, or enjoying outdoor recreation on a regular basis, not using adequate sun protection can significantly increase your exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer later in life.

A vast majority of skin cancers can be prevented

Over 80% of all skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds. This means that the majority of skin cancers are preventable by undertaking simple sun safety measures.

What should you look out for, what are the symptoms?

There is currently no NHS national screening programme for skin cancer so it’s important to regularly check your skin for any changes or abnormalities. Being familiar with your skin – i.e. how it looks and feels – is crucial in identifying the symptoms of skin cancer early.

There are some clear signs that a mole could be a melanoma. You should get your moles checked by your GP or a skin cancer specialist if you notice any of the following skin changes: 

  • Changing shape, particularly if it has an irregular outline,
  • Changing colour, getting darker, becoming patchy or multi-shaded, 
  • An existing mole getting bigger or a new mole growing quickly,
  • If a mole starts to itch or become painful,
  • If a mole is bleeding, becoming crusty and/or looks inflamed. 

There is a simple ABCDE rule for mole checking:

  • Asymmetry: the two halves of your mole do not look the same.
  • Border: the edges of your mole are irregular, blurred or jagged.
  • Colour: the colour of your mole is uneven, with more than one shade.
  • Diameter: your mole is wider than 6 mm in diameter (the size of a pencil rubber).
  • Evolving: changes in the mole over a variable time, weeks, months, years.

The ABCDE Rule Skin Cancer PNG

Understanding these key skin cancer risk factors can help you make simple changes to your lifestyle to help protect your skin. Identifying any of these risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop skin cancer, but it is important to be aware so you can mitigate the risk. If you are worried about skin cancer, Check4Cancer offers SkinCheck, a skin cancer screening service for anyone aged 18+ who would like the appearance of their skin or moles checked by a skin cancer specialist.


1 Men’s skin cancer rates increase by 50% over decade - Cancer Research UK - Cancer news