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Men: Know your risk for skin cancer

Among the biggest risks men take every day with their health is simply being outdoors without sun protection. As a result, men have higher rates of the deadliest type of skin cancer, melanoma, than women. This is true at any age, even among young adult males.

Good news, though: Skin cancer is preventable and is highly treatable if caught early. However, because melanoma isn’t always promptly detected, it’s the most lethal cancer.

Why the higher risk for men?

Reasons range from behavioral to physiological:

  • Men protect their skin less often, perhaps because they are less informed. For example, only 56% of men believe, correctly, that there’s no such thing as a healthy tan, compared to 76% of women.
  • Even when aware of the sun’s dangers, men tend to take less care with their skin, whereas women are more likely to use a sun-protection product daily.
  • Men’s skin is thicker with less fat underneath, and it has more elastin and collagen. This difference might result in men’s greater reaction to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and women’s ability to better repair UV damage.

Proactively reduce your risk

Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, if you are a man, you should prioritize guarding against UV rays every time you’re outside. To help prevent skin cancer:

  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest.
  • Seek shade as often as possible.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Apply one ounce of broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all of your exposed skin 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Use a self-tanning lotion instead of a tanning bed or tanning outside.

You should also get regular skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist.

In between medical screenings, conduct regular skin self-exams with the help of a partner or mirror. Look for skin spots that itch, bleed or have changed, or are new or suspicious. Let your primary care provider know if you’ve found something concerning.

Sources: The American Academy of Dermatology; The Skin Cancer Foundation

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