Skin cancer deaths among Irish men double in 30 years

Deaths among Irish women from the disease also up, against international trends

There was  a sharp rise in skin cancer deaths among Irish women between 1985 and 2015, against international trends.  File Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

There was a sharp rise in skin cancer deaths among Irish women between 1985 and 2015, against international trends. File Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Skin cancer deaths among men in Ireland have doubled over the past 30 years, while deaths among women are up by one-half, according to new research.

Male skin cancer deaths are rising faster in Ireland and Croatia than in 16 other western countries, the research presented at a medical conference in Glasgow indicates.

Irish trends were in line with western countries generally, all of which recorded an increase in male deaths from the disease.

But there was also a sharp rise in skin cancer deaths among Irish women between 1985 and 2015, against international trends. Irish female skin cancer deaths rose 49 per cent, second only to the Netherlands (58 per cent), whereas in many western countries, female mortality dropped over the period.

The work was presented by Dr Dorothy Yang, a junior doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London. “The major risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sun exposure or from using sunbeds. Despite public health efforts to promote awareness of melanoma and encourage sun-smart behaviours, melanoma incidence has been increasing in recent decades.”

However, there are signs melanoma death rates are stabilising in places such as Australia, where an active sun protection policy is in place.

“Australia has been an early implementer of public health media campaigns since the 1970s to promote ‘sun-smart’ behaviour,” Dr Yang pointed out.

More research was needed to explore the different trends for men and women, she said. “There is evidence that suggests men are less likely to protect themselves from the sun or engage with melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns. There is also ongoing work looking for any biological factors underlying the difference in mortality rates between men and women.”

Irish data shows the incidence of skin cancer tends to be highest in western and coastal counties.

Additional reporting: Guardian Service