Why skin cancer strikes men harder

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Why skin cancer strikes men harder

Men who like to sit outdoors watching a sporting event or sailing on a boat over open waters, should always remember one very important thing – remembering to put on sunscreen.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, men have nearly twice the rates of squamous and basal cell carcinomas (non-melanoma skin cancers) than women.  For malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, men have the highest chances of dying from the disease.  Of the estimated 9,320 people who are estimated to die from melanoma in 2018, 64% of them will be men.

Reasons why men are at a higher risk

There are several reasons why men not only have a higher risk of developing this deadly skin cancer but also have a higher death rate.  One reason is men tend to get more ultraviolet exposure (UV) because of their jobs and consequently more sunburns.  Men are often not faithful about consistently using sunscreen (up to 47% of men never use sunscreen) and are more likely to discover a malignant spot at a later stage.  Women are very good at inspecting their skin noticing changes right away, something men rarely do.  By the time a man notices a spot or change in their skin that is cancerous, it may have already advanced to a later, less curable stage.   

Men are also notorious for avoiding doctors, including dermatologists.  It can take quite of bit of nagging from family members before a man will finally and reluctantly make an appointment to have a skin condition checked out.  Again if it is a melanoma found at a later stage, it will be more difficult to treat, possibly leading to disfiguration or death.  

Another reason for a greater risk of melanoma is that many men are not as vain about their skin as women. Obsessive worries over aging skin or wrinkles are usually not on many men’s radars.  This makes it less likely a man will take precautions in protecting their skin from the sun.  But because women do care more about their skin’s appearance by applying sunscreen and using makeup and skincare products offering SPF, they have lower rates of this cancer.

Researchers also believe that a major cause may lie in men’s skin.  Men’s skin differs from women’s skin.  Men have thicker skin with less fat beneath the surface and it contains more collagen and elastin, fibers that give the skin firmness and keep it tight.  In fact a study in the Netherlands found that men’s skin reacted more intensely to UV rays than did women’s skin. 

Steps men should take to protect their skin from melanoma

Skin is the largest organ of the body and needs to be protected.  Since sunlight is the biggest enemy of causing skin cancer and aging, the most logical step men can do to reduce their risk of developing a deadly melanoma is to take the following precautions:

·      Every day of the year, put on sunscreen offering SPF 30, broad-spectrum protection, and water resistance. Even on cloudy days the sun’s UV rays are present and can harm skin.

·      Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses

·      When outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible

·      Wear long sleeves and pants when possible

·      Stay out of the sun when the sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Another very important practice for everyone is to get in the habit of doing is a skin self-exam.   Here is a link of an excellent video on how to do this.  With a partner’s help, men can have their partner check hard-to-see areas like their back for any suspicious looking changes in skin. 

Any man who has never been screened for skin cancer, should start now.  Screenings can help find early signs of skin cancer catching them before they spread.

By being proactive, men can catch any skin changes early before malignant melanoma has a chance to grow.