It is known that ultraviolet radiation is one of the most important risk factors contributing to non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. Athletes playing outdoor sports are exposed to a comparatively high amount of UV because of training and competition outdoors and thus athletes have an increased risk for cutaneous melanoma and other skin cancers.
A study has found that one in seven UK cricket players was urgently requested to see a specialist after discovering worrying moles during check-ups. For that reason the Professional Cricketer’s Association has organised screenings for all its members at dermatology specialists and already 15% of the male players were found to be in need of further investigation.
Health experts are now warning the population, and especially men, to remember the dangers of the sun, because Cancer Research UK figures have shown a remarkable increase in the skin cancer mortality rate among men. In the late seventies fewer than 400 (1.5 per 100,000) men died from malignant melanoma, but 30 years later the death rate has doubled to more than 1,100 (3.1 per 100,000). The malignant melanoma death rate among women has slowly increased from 1.5 per 100,000 to 2.2 per 100,000.
The death rate from melanoma among men over 65 has risen sharply from 4.5 per 100,000 to 15.2 per 100,000 and especially in comparison to the death rate among women over 65 from 3.0 per 100,000 to 10.3 per 100,000 over the past three decades.
Since the seventies the incidence rates of melanoma in the UK have risen significantly among both sexes, but even though more women are diagnosed with malignant melanoma more men die from it. (5,697 women diagnosed compared to 4,975 men in 2007). Research has shown that, when diagnosed early melanoma can be successfully treated.
The dissimilarity of death rates suggest that men are either not aware of the skin cancer symptoms or are ignoring them, and athletes frequently seem to know little about the risks of sun exposure. Also many men are depending on others like partners and mothers to remind them to use sunscreen, says Cancer Research UK. Protective measures, like avoiding training with considerable sun exposure, wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen need to be promoted by outdoor sports communities.
“The rise in skin cancer deaths among men is worrying and highlights how important it is for everyone to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun. Seeing many people with sunburn from the sunny weather is a reminder of how easy it is to damage your skin,” says Britain’s care services minister Paul Burstow.
“We should all keep a careful eye on our skin. Shrugging off any changes in a mole’s appearance could put your life at risk. Always see your GP as soon as possible if you have concerns. When skin cancer is caught early treatment is more likely to be successful, and fast action could stop the significant rise we’ve seen in the number of deaths.”