More men die of skin cancer because they are too feckless and ugly to take care of themselves according to female health experts in South West England.
During February men aged over 50 in the county of Dorset will be in the spotlight as the focus of a new health campaign to encourage more men to take care of their skin and avoid getting a malignant melanoma.
But why target men? Well according to Caroline Cerny from Cancer Research UK it’s because “men leave it up to their partners or mothers to remind them to use sunscreen or cover up with a shirt and hat” – which is obviously a big problem in Dorset during February where temperatures soar to an average high of 9°C/48°F.
Her view that men need to take better care of their skin is backed by Julia Verne, Director South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) who adds to Caroline Cerny’s description of men as feckless fools who are incapable of looking after themselves, by suggesting that men aren’t just feckless, they’re ugly too – and don’t give a stuff about how sunburnt or cancerous they look, unlike smart old women who are less likely to die from skin cancer because they are “more concerned about their appearance than men”.
But wait a minute, are men really too stupid and ugly to take care of their skin? If so then presumably men get lots more skin cancer than women?
Er, not really. There are around 9,000 new cases of skin cancer every year and about 53% are found in women – who are presumably far too busy taking care of their appearance and telling their feckless husbands and sons to put on some cream and a sun hat, to take care of their own skin.
So if women are more likely to get skin cancer, why focus on men?
Well, the sad fact is that about 20 men a week die of skin cancer in the UK accounting for about 57% of all skin cancer deaths per year.
And when it comes to diagnosis, 1 in 5 cases are terminal by the time they get a diagnosis, and around 60% of those late presenting cases are men.
So why are men slower at presenting?
Well here’s the really interesting statistic, men are more than twice as likely as women to get skin cancer on their backs with nearly 40% of malignant melanomas appearing on the torso where even men who check themselves regularly cant find them – because – well – that sneaky little mole is hiding around the back!
In comparison women are nearly 3 times as likely (42% to 15%) to get skin cancer on their legs where they can see it according to Cancer Research UK’s own statistics on men, women and skin cancer.
And when you really drill down into the available statistics you discover that 98.9% of men and 98.7% of women are not at risk of developing malignant melanoma in their lifetime – so for the vast majority of men and women this is not an issue.
For the minority who do get skin cancer, 76% of men and 85% of women present for early diagnosis and the remainder – which accounts for 1 in 400 men and 1 in 500 women will get a skin cancer that is terminal by the time they get a diagnosis.
And not even all of the 1 in 400 men who get a malignant melanoma that is terminal by the time they get a diagnosis will have got the disease because they don’t care about their appearance and they rely on women to tell them to put sun cream on – despite what Caroline Cerny would like to have you believe.
According to the Skin Cancer Facts the men most a risk aren’t feckless men who don’t care about their appearance – but men with a high number of moles; men with red or fair hair, blue eyes, fair skin and freckles; men who tan with difficulty and burn in the sun and men with a history of the disease in two or more family members.
Having said all that, it is true that Skin Cancer has increased over the last 30 years more than any other common cancer in the UK, with the male incident rates increasing more than five times from around 2.7 per 100,000 people in 1978 to 14.6 in 2007, while the female rates have more than tripled from 4.5 to 15.4 over the same period.
And it’s also true that men are more likely to die of skin cancer each year – accounting for 47% of cases and 57% of deaths.
And we strongly welcome health interventions targeted at men like Cancer Research UK’s men and skin cancer campaign in Merseyside and the charity’s inconclusive research into why more men die of cancer.
What we do not welcome is a spokeswoman for a charity known for spending more than four times more money on researching women’s cancer than men’s cancer launching a campaign with a primary message that stereotypes men as feckless fools who don’t look after themselves:
Particularly when the charity’s own conclusion into its research showing that when you factor out sex-specific cancers men are 60 per cent more likely to get cancer than women, and 70 per cent more likely to die from it was this:
“As a science-based organisation, we can’t make decisions and strategy based on stereotypes and personal stories – we need hard data (and) will carry out research as to why people put off going to the doctor with early cancer symptoms, and how best to get across messages about the signs of cancer. Armed with this information, we will be able to target the right messages to the right people, at the right time.”
If “we can’t make strategy based on stereotypes” why launch a major communication strategy by stereotyping men?
We don’t know how well Cancer Research UK’s work into identifying the best messages to help beat cancer is going but the research above would suggest that some effective messages might be:
Men, did you know that women like Carolyn Cerny at Cancer Research UK are more likely to get skin cancer than men and three times more likely to get skin cancer on their legs than you, please remind them of that fact the next time they tell you that you are rubbish at looking after your skin.
Women, the men in your life are twice as likely as you to get a malignant melanoma on their back where they can’t see it, please check their back for them occasionally – and while you’re there, ask them to check your legs because you are more likely to get skin cancer than men and three times more likely to get it on your legs than the men in your life.
Cancer Research UK, you spend four times more money on women’s cancer than men’s cancer – no we know women are not as good at looking after their skin as men – being three times more likely to get skin cancer on their legs – but when you factor out sex-specific cancer men are 70% more likely to die of cancer so how about pushing a few more of your millions towards men’s health please?
Until that happy day, here’s a final footnote: people who believe that the BBC is biased against men may be interested to note that as well as quoting two female health experts, this BBC article on MEN and skin cancer quotes a local resident who has had skin cancer who IS A WOMAN – but NO MEN – and is written by a woman too.
For the sake of balance, this Men’s Network article is 100% man!