It is unlikely that most middle-aged men would consider slapping on the sunscreen while popping out for a spot of gardening, mowing the lawn or washing the car. But new figures suggest skin cancer rates are rising faster in over-60s in England than any other group. New Public Health England figures show that most common type of skin cancer - superficial spreading melanoma - has increased by 12 per cent since 1990 for middle-aged men, compared with just eight per cent in the under 60s.
Health experts are concerned that sun protection campaigns are too focussed on young people, and too reliant on social media. They claim that many middle-aged men simply are not aware that everyday recreational activities, like gardening, playing golf, or washing the car, could be putting them at risk.The statistics showed that over-60s were most likely to get skin cancer on their trunk and arms which are often exposed without protection. “Older men were brought up in an era where hadn’t been indoctrinated with the knowledge that sun is bad for you,” said Professor John Hawk, President of the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin.
“But older men, particularly if they are retired, spend a lot of time outdoors; playing golf; or in the garden with their shirts off. Most don’t like putting sunscreen on, they can’t be bothered.
“But they have already build up a years of skin damage and so they are at risk from being outdoors. It’s important that they cover up, whether with clothing or with sunscreen.”
More than 13,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. Men over 60 have double the chance of being diagnosed with advanced skin cancer compared with younger men, indicating that they are unaware of the signs or are waiting until it is too late to seek medical advice.
Skin cancer is also more common on the back in men and it is difficult for patients to spot early changes in a lesion on the back, particularly if they live alone. Older people are also more likely to develop harmless lesions on the skin, such as warts, which are often difficult to distinguish from dangerous melanomas. Julia Verne, Director of the South West Knowledge and Intelligence Team, Public Health England commented: “Studies into the causes of melanoma have emphasised the importance of excessive UV exposure and especially burning through recreational activities and holidays.
“The findings of this study highlight the need for education campaigns to target the entire spectrum of people across all demographics about the dangers of sunburn and sunbathing.”
Previous studies have shown that men are more likely to ignore sun safety advice and not use sunscreen, wear hats or cover their arms and legs on a hot day. Those who were the least likely to heed warnings over sun radiation were males aged below 20 and over 64.
“Without wanting to stereotype, a lot of leisure time in middle-aged and retired men is spent outdoors, not just on holidays but during their everyday lives - be it playing sports, gardening, walking, lawn mowing or car washing,” said Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists.
“All of these are opportunities for sunburn during the hotter months, and yet we know men over the age of 60 are particularly remiss when it comes to sun protection. Surveys have shown that men rely on women to buy their sunscreen and aren't as good at remembering to apply it either.
“They also don't check their skin for signs of cancer as regularly as women. Men must remember to apply sunscreen, especially to areas like the ears, neck and scalp if the hair is thinning, and to wear a hat when out in the sun."
The British Association of Dermatologists is also concerned that many campaigns now involve social media, and so may be missing an older demographic. The research will be presented next week at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh.Source: The Telegraph