Men 50+ at Higher Risk for Melanoma

A new study reported by CNN found that men are dying at a higher rate than women from melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.

Dr. Dorothy Yang who led the study at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust stated, “Over the past 30 years, mortality trends (for melanoma) have increased in most countries. There is evidence that suggests men are less likely to protect themselves from the sun or engage with melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns.”

Men & Melanoma Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for developing melanoma is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or using tanning beds. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that men can benefit from learning more about skin cancer prevention. According to an AAD survey:

  • Only 56% of men know there is no such thing as a healthy tan, compared to 76% of women;
  • Just 54% of men know that getting a base tan is not a healthy way to protect your skin from the sun, compared to 70% of women;
  • Only 56% of men know that skin cancer can occur on areas of the skin not typically exposed to the sun, compared to 65% of women.

Because men over 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma, it is especially important for men to be vigilant about their skin. While melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, when detected early it is highly treatable. Dermatologists advise both men and women to perform regular skin self-exams to identify early signs of skin cancer and report suspicious moles or spots to their dermatologist. Unfortunately, studies are finding that men 50 and older are less likely to heed this advice than other population groups.

According to Dr. Laura K. Ferris, MD, PhD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, delayed diagnosis is the reason that older men are the most at risk and are most likely to die from melanoma. Dr. Ferris states, “This should be a wakeup call to men over 50 and their loved ones. It’s vitally important that men check their skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if they notice a spot that is changing, growing or looks unusual.”

Dr. Ferris recommends these tips for performing skin self-exams:

  • Use a mirror to examine hard-to-see places;
  • Look for the “ugly duckling,” or the one mole that looks different from the rest;
  • Pay attention to any mole that is changing or growing rapidly no matter its color, because melanoma may be brown, black or even pink or red;
  • If in doubt, get the mole looked at sooner rather than later. When found in its earliest stages, melanoma is highly curable.

The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends that older men take steps to protect their skin by:

  • Using a broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher;
  • Wearing protective clothing when in the sun;
  • Seeking shade when outdoors whenever possible.

Early treatment saves lives. Everyone should get a skin cancer screening once or twice a year as your doctor recommends based on your own risk profile, and of course if you have a suspicious mole or spot, schedule a skin assessment today at Water’s Edge Dermatology: Request an Appointment.