I was recently diagnosed with advanced melanoma and after six years of chemotherapy, my skin has finally begun to fade away.
It feels like the last time I saw my face.
But this is not normal.
In the UK, there is a very strong trend in recent years to reduce the amount of sun exposure for young people and in some parts of Europe, women are even being urged to avoid wearing sunscreen for the first time in their lives.
The latest statistics show that a large number of women in the UK are now opting out of the sun altogether.
The UK Department of Health has estimated that the number of cases of skin cancer will be reduced by 20 per cent by 2020.
But is there any evidence to suggest that women in particular are more at risk than men of developing skin cancer?
Is there a difference in the rates of melanoma among women and men?
The British Cancer Society has published a research report that suggests it might be the latter.
They have found that in some regions, men are more likely than women to develop skin cancer.
They have also found that among the female population, the rate of melanomas in older age groups is slightly higher than the rate for the male population.
In an accompanying commentary, Dr David Gell-Badge, from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Warwick, UK, has called for further research into the link between skin cancer and sun exposure.
He argues that there are important differences in the skin cancer risk of men and women.
Dr GellBadge says:Men tend to have more advanced stages of melanosarcoma than women.
These include stage 1 melanoma, stage 2 melanoma (non-melanoma skin cancer), stage 3 melanoma with the presence of fibrosis, and stage 4 melanoma.
These are cancers which are more easily diagnosed, but are more difficult to treat.
Women tend to be more likely as the disease progresses to have skin cancers that are more mild and have a milder progression than men.
There are also differences in how melanoma progresses in women and in men.
Men are more prone to melanoma as the age progresses, but also to other types of cancer which include basal cell carcinoma and neoplasia of the epidermis.
Dr Badge says that this suggests that men have a greater risk of melanosis, but that this is a reflection of their skin’s natural ageing process.
He adds that skin cancer is usually not associated with skin disease.
Dr Alanna Sargent, from Cancer Research UK, said:The study also found no differences in risk between men and woman for advanced melanomas.
She says: Men have a lower rate of developing melanoma of all types.
It is the more advanced forms of melanoproliferative disease (PPD), which includes stage 3, that are most common in men and that are also the most likely to be associated with PPD.
It can also be linked to melanomas that are not in situ.
This is particularly true in women, as their skin is not fully developed at the time of melanomagenesis.
So why are women less likely to develop melanoma?
Dr Sargant says:There are a number of reasons for this, including that the skin is less prone to disease-causing bacteria, and also that women are less likely than men to develop PPD or basal cell melanoma at the same time.
She also says that the fact that the incidence of skin cancers is higher among women in general may also explain why there are fewer women in hospitals than men in the United Kingdom.
The report is published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.