As much of the UK swelters in a summer heatwave, with the Met Office issuing a level three heat health alert and temperatures set to peak next week, a charity has warned that skin cancer death rates in men have more than tripled since the 1970s.
Cancer Research UK has warned people to take care in the sun as a result, and to fully protect themselves from getting sunburnt.
Since 1973, death rates from melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – have risen by 219% in men, compared to an increase of 76% in women, the charity has said.
These figures equate to around 1,400 UK men dying of melanoma skin cancer every year, compared to around 980 women – or a total of six people a day, it added.
Taking into account age differences, this means men are 69% more likely to die from skin cancer than women. And, while death rates from melanoma have decreased by 9% for women in the last decade, things haven’t yet improved for men, it has warned.
Reasons for this increase could include the increase in package holidays to sun destinations since the 1970s meaning more people going abroad to where the sun can be stronger, and therefore risking higher levels of exposure, Cancer Research UK said.
Skin cancer and work
Skin cancers are also more often found on men’s torsos than on other body parts – likely because of going shirtless. This can make it harder to spot changes to the skin, and potentially contribute to the higher proportion of later-stage diagnosis seen in men.
A survey of 2,000 UK men by the charity with suncream brand Nivea Sun in April found that, although 84% of UK men were aware sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, less than a quarter said they always protected themselves from the sun.
When analysing the reasons for having not protected themselves in the sun, a quarter of men (25%) said they did not feel the sun was strong enough, with nearly the same number (23%) saying they didn’t really think about it.
The HR body the CIPD has urged employers to adopt flexible working arrangements, including working from home, to help keep employees comfortable and productive while working during the current heatwave.
And the TUC has advised employers to allow frequent breaks, provide a supply of cold drinks and listen to employees’ ideas about how best to cope with the heat.
The union body has also called for a change in the law so that employers must attempt to reduce temperatures if they get above 24 degrees celsius, and a requirement to stop work if indoor temperatures reach 30 degrees or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous jobs.
Of the Cancer Research UK figures, the charity’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “These figures showing that six people die of melanoma every day in the UK really drive home the importance of sun safety. We all need to take steps to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of skin cancer.
“This weekend remember to spend some time in the shade, cover up with clothing and regularly apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and 4 or 5 stars. And if you notice any unusual changes to a patch of skin or nail, don’t put off telling your doctor. In most cases it’s not cancer, but if it is, an early diagnosis can make all the difference,” she added.