Why More Men Are Dying From Skin Cancer

Male baby boomers have twice the risk of dying from melanoma as female baby boomers. Reasons include: working outdoors, not regularly wearing sunscreen, not doing self skin checks, and not going to doctors appointments.

Construction worker places rebar

Scary truth: Male baby boomers (born between 1946-1955) have twice the risk of dying from melanoma as female baby boomers. Why? There are many reasons, most involving lifestyle choices:

  • Men tend to work more outdoors in fields such as construction, landscaping, and farming.
  • Men are less likely than women to wear sunscreen regularly and to cover up with clothing and hats.
  • Men spend lots of time outdoors for recreational activities such as weekend club sports. More men, especially over the age of 50, play golf. (Just one round of golf takes about 5 hours, so you do the math.) Recent statistics say about half of all melanoma skin cancers occur in men 50 and older.
  • Men are less likely to do self skin checks or schedule regular doctors visits.
  • Men are less informed about the dangers of sun exposure. Studies have shown that many national education and awareness campaigns are directed more towards women than men.

Does that mean there’s no hope? Not at all. It’s all about implementing lifestyle changes that will keep you safe.

  • Simple things like wearing hats, wrap-around sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts go a long way in keeping your skin protected. The guy pictured above is doing it right.
  • Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 daily and reapplying it is probably the toughest sell to men who often feel it’s a hassle. If you’ve got a man in your life, I encourage you to help him wear sunscreen regularly. I’d avoid guilt as a motivator, which doesn’t work, and opt for humor or positive comments:  Maybe something like: “I’d really like to get the kids in the habit of using sunscreen every morning. I’d love it if you’d apply it along with them to show them it’s important.” OR “I really like having you around, honey. Who would take out the garbage every Wednesday?” You get the idea.
  • Do monthly self-skin checks, or better yet, do it with your partner. You’ll have more fun and help keep one another safe. You’re looking for new and changing moles. (Please see this video on the ABCDEs of nodular melanoma.)
  • Know your family history. If you’re at high-risk for melanoma based on genetics or lifestyle choices, then find a dermatologist you like and go for regular screenings. He or she could be the best connection you’ll ever make.
  • For more information, visit The Skin Cancer Foundation at www.skincancer.org.

For more information about raising awareness of men’s health issues, check out my post on Movember and consider becoming a member. And please consider donating to this cause.

Photo credit: FFC, USACEPublicaffairs

5 thoughts on “Why More Men Are Dying From Skin Cancer”

  1. deborah nixon says:

    thank you for your blog about men and melanoma. My husband first got melanoma at 26 and died at 37. I had a melanoma in 1992 and am still here! However, my son is likely very high risk. I just read an article in August 2012 Nature about the genetic link for melanoma with red hair, blue eyed, fair skin people. That sunscreen and avoiding sun has almost no effect. So the only defense is monthly skin checks. And a yearly check with our specialist- in our case a plastic surgeon. People ignore checking their skin- as my late husband had. It can mean the difference between life and death.

  2. Deborah, thank you for sharing your story. First, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. I’m happy to hear you’re doing so well. Yes, genetics play a major role. And, yes, fair-haired people are usually fair-skinned as well, and, thus, more susceptible to sunburn and damage which lead to skin cancer. However, the second point about sunscreen and sun exposure is simply not true. Avoiding the sun is the best thing you can do to protect yourself. Since that is not practical for most people, covering up with clothing, hats, and sunglasses AND using broad-spectrum sunscreen are critical for protecting your skin and reducing your skin cancer risk. Self-skin checks are important, but they are not the “only defense.” The are one of many. I wish you the best of health. -JB

  3. deborah nixon says:

    Yes. That’s the study.

    And of course, I would never say don’t use sunscreen. I avoid the sun and try to encourage my teenager to do the same (very hard to do) I’m a serious cyclist and unfortunately, get sun on my face through the summer.

    My concern about the sunscreen message is that high risk people think they’re safe with just that. I want those people to realize that they can get melanoma ‘where the sun don’t shine’. A friend’s brother in law died of melanoma on his buttock cheeks- and he wasn’t a nudist. It also shows up internally- as you well know.

    So I want to emphasize yearly checks- including your eyes. Thanks for the great work you are doing.

  4. Deborah, thank you for following up. I completely agree with you. Sunscreen isn’t enough for high-risk folks, but it’s an important tool in the arsenal against skin cancer. Getting cancer as you say, “where the sun don’t shine” is rare, but is also a tragic truth. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing for both you and your daughter. And by sharing your insights online, you’re helping countless others. Looking forward to hearing from you in the future.

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