Men more likely to die of skin cancer than women “because they can’t see tumours”


THE higher skin cancer death rate among Scots men could be explained by the fact they got more tumours on their backs.

Scottish Women diagnosed with malignant melanoma are 7% more likely to survive five years or more than men.

Women tend to get tumours on their front and legs, where they can easily be seen.

Cases of malignant melanoma on a patient’s back are more difficult to spot, leading to delays in diagnosis.

There are roughly 1,200 new cases of malignant melanoma in Scotland each year
There are roughly 1,200 new cases of malignant melanoma in Scotland each year


Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common form of the disease in Scotland with around 1,200 new cases each year.

The statistics, published this week by NHS Health Scotland, show that women are likely to live longer than men after being diagnosed with 12 out of the 20 most common forms of cancer.

In the case of malignant melanoma, men aged 15-44 are 7% less likely to survive five years after diagnosis than women.

By the time men reach 85 or over, they are 23% less likely to survive five years than women.

A spokesman for the Information Services Division Scotland said: “The reason why men have less chance of surviving skin cancer than women could be down to a number of factors.

Men tend to develop melanomas on their backs
Men tend to develop melanomas on their backs


“Men tend to develop melanomas on their back and neck, which means there is less chance of them being noticed in the early stages.

“Melanomas on women appear mainly on their legs and the front of their bodies, where they are easily noticed.

“Women are also more likely to visit their GP if they think something is wrong, compared to men who tend to put it off.”


The reasons why men develop more melanomas on their back and neck are unclear. However, it is believed that men tend to spend more time in the sunlight with their back, neck and shoulders exposed.

Men also typically have shorter hair than women, leaving the back of their neck exposed – resulting in more melanomas in a hard-to-see place.

Other published stats show that women have a longer survival rate when diagnosed with stomach, thyroid, kidney and pancreatic cancer.

Men, on the other hand, have a higher survival rate for bone marrow cancer, colorectal cancer and leukaemia.

Despite the gender disparity for skin cancer, the statistics also show the total number of people living for up to five years after a cancer diagnosis has reached a record high.

The information reveals that men diagnosed with cancer between 2007 to 2011 had a 48% chance of five year survival, compared to 29% between 1987 to 1991.

Women diagnosed during the same time period have a 54% chance of five year survival compared to 40% between 1987 and 1991.