Far more men than women are dying from skin cancer, despite similar numbers being diagnosed with the disease, a report suggests.

Cancer Research UK said each year, the most serious type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, kills 1,300 men and 900 women, a gap expected to widen.

Prof Julia Newton-Bishop, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist, suspects that women's stronger immune systems are a major factor alongside men being less likely to seek treatment early.

Deal with melanomas in different ways
German researchers have previously identified a gene that appears to make men, but not women, more susceptible to melanoma.

Prof Newton-Bishop, from the University of Leeds, said: "Research has suggested the difference between the sexes could be in part because men are more likely to be diagnosed when melanoma is at a more advanced stage.

"But there also seem to be strong biological reasons behind the differences, and we're working on research to better understand why men and women's bodies deal with their melanomas in different ways.

"Stage for stage, men do less well with this cancer so there's something very important that this is telling us about how the body deals it. We think it is something to do with the immune system rather than hormones because pre- and post-menopausal fare the same."

Malignant melanoma death rates have been increasing in the UK since the early 1970s, largely because more people are developing the disease.

Male incidence rates are now more than five times higher than they were 30 years ago - rising from 2.7 per 100,000 to 17.2 per 100,000.