Men’s Skin Cancer: What You Don’t Know Could Kill You

Jeffrey Totey

A new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) shows that men’s skin cancer knowledge falls way below women’s knowledge, says the organization in a recent press release. Though skin cancer can affect anyone, it appears that women understand the risks better than men do.

Conducted by Relevant Research Inc. of Chicago, 1,020 respondents completed an online survey about skin cancer this past January and the results were somewhat surprising.

According to the survey, 76 percent of the women polled understand that there is no such thing as a “healthy tan,” but only 56 percent of the men did as well. That same percentage of men understand that skin cancer can appear anywhere on the skin including areas that are usually covered with clothing. However, 65 percent of the women polled knew this. And while 70 percent of women understand that a “base tan” is not a healthy way to protect yourself from further skin damage, just 54 percent of men agreed with them.

After all is said and done though, the survey still shows that too many people, both men and women, are still lacking knowledge on skin cancer prevention, and let’s face it, what you don’t know could kill you.

To help raise awareness of the possible risks, the AAD has created a “Looking Good in 2016” skin cancer prevention public service announcement to air during the month of May as part of the Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month and especially for “Melanoma Monday” which will be observed on May 2.

“It’s important for both men and women to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet rays and regularly examine their entire body, including hard-to-see areas, for signs of skin cancer,” says board-certified dermatologist Abel Torres, MD, JD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “While our survey results indicate that men don’t know as much about skin cancer prevention and detection as women, men over 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma, so it’s especially important for them to be vigilant about protecting and monitoring their skin.”

Part of the ADD campaign includes a new “Looking Good” public service ad which features a man checking himself out in the bathroom mirror and taking time to look for possible skin abnormalities. Though the ad is humorous, the ADD wants to stress the importance of regular skin self-exams, especially with men over the age of 50.

“To keep your skin looking good and reduce your skin cancer risk, the AAD recommends protecting yourself from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher,” Dr. Torres says. “And since skin cancer — including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer — is highly treatable when detected early, it’s important to regularly take a good look at your skin and check it for suspicious spots, asking someone you trust to help you examine hard-to-see areas.”

While skin cancer isn’t picky on the age, race or gender of the person it affects, men appear to be somewhat in the dark about prevention care. Dr. Torres says that men should examine themselves for signs of skin cancer regularly.

“If you notice any irregular spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.”

So, how does one go about a skin self-exam? You can start by visiting SpotSkinCancer.org and download a body mole map that will help you track changes with your skin. The site will also give you instructions on how to examine yourself, or another loved one for that matter. You can even find free “SPOTme” skin cancer screening locations near where you live.

[Photo courtesy of The American Academy of Dermatology]