Men and Skin Cancer

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • When you think of who is most at risk for skin cancer, you might immediately think of women. You may envision women sunbathing on the beach or a group of girls comparing their tans. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008, 38,484 men were diagnosed with melanoma compared to 25,211 women. Almost twice as many men died from melanomas of the skin than women the same year. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that more than 8,600 men will die from melanoma this year. Perry Robbins, M.D., President of The Skin Cancer Foundation states, “While clearly melanoma is a concern for all demographics, it is at a crisis level for men.” [1]

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    Understanding Sun Protection

    Men are less apt to use sunscreen when outdoors even though they, on average, spend more time outdoors than women. A study from the National Sun Protection Advisory Council found men spend 36 hours a week outdoors but only 25 percent of men are likely to use sunscreen. [2]


    It could be that men are not provided the information about sunscreen and sun protection. According to an article on, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine looked at where sunscreen ads appeared. They reviewed advertising over 5 years, in 24 different magazines, and found that more than ¾ of the ads were in women’s magazines. A study in Australia completed a massive campaign to educate men about skin cancer, skin screenings and the patient information. The results showed that when men are given the information, they respond. Men who went through the program were four times more likely to visit a doctor for a skin exam, even 2 years after the program and were twice as likely to perform a skin self exam.


    Besides the knowledge of proper sun protection, men have less natural defenses against sunburn. They have less hair, leaving their scalp and their ears exposed to the sun. When working outdoors, even in the yard, men can easily take off their shirt, leaving their chest, shoulders and back exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.


    Ignoring the Signs and Avoiding the Doctor

    Men are notorious for going to the doctor only when absolutely necessary. A survey completed for the American Academy of Physicians found that 85 percent of men said they will go to the doctor when sick, however, almost all said they would wait a few days to see if they felt better with 30 percent saying they would wait as long as possible before going to  the doctor.


    For some men, there are obstacles to getting health care, such as not having insurance or not having a regular doctor to call, however, the survey found that 39 percent said there were no obstacles but they just didn’t go if there wasn’t a serious health issue.


    The good news is that, for those with a significant other, urging from their partner will influence their decision to see a doctor and once they did see the doctor, they more than likely would follow the doctor’s advice.


    Skin cancer, when identified early, is treatable and curable. But as the statistics show, when men routinely avoid the doctor’s office, melanoma can be fatal. Dr. Alan Geller, Research Associate Professor of Dermatology at Boston University of Medicine reminds us, “The keys to overcoming melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer is prevention, early detection and prompt treatment. Once we make men aware that there is an epidemic going on, we need to encourage them to take the necessary steps to protect themselves.” [3]


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    “Men and Skin Cancer: Solving the Knowledge Gap,” 2012, Staff Writer, The Skin Cancer Foundation


    “Skin Cancer Statistics,” 2012, US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


    “Why Men Skin Doctor Visits,” 2007, June, Miranda Hitti, WebMD Health News


    [1] [2] [3]“You Are at Risk,” 2012, Staff Writer, The Skin Cancer Foundation

Published On: September 14, 2012