Why Do More Men Than Women Die of Skin Cancer?

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

About twice as many men as women will die from melanoma this year. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 6,380 men and 3,350 women will die from melanoma in 2017.

Men don’t use sunscreen regularly

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays – both long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) — are known to cause skin cancer. About 86 percent of all melanomas are attributed to sun exposure, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Protecting your skin from the sun’s rays means wearing sunscreen everyday and reapplying it every few hours, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding spending long periods of time in the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

But only 14.3 percent of men say they regularly use sunscreen on their face and other exposed skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This might be due, in part, to advertisements and educational information about the importance of sunscreen typically being aimed toward women more than men.

Men also often spend more time outdoors. The U.S. Labor Department shows that men, on an average, spend one hour a day more than women on sports and leisure activities. If these activities are outdoors, such as fishing, hiking, or playing golf, they are spending seven more hours per week out in the sun. The cumulative effects of sun exposure increase their risk of developing skin cancer.

Men don’t go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary

Too often, men ignore signs of skin cancer. They don’t see visiting a doctor or dermatologist as a priority in their life. Three times more men than women indicated they hadn’t seen a doctor over the last year, according to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Many men wait as long as possible, even if they have a lesion or other suspicious signs of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is treatable when detected and treated early. But that means doing skin self-checks on a regular basis, seeing a dermatologist on an annual basis, and more often, if there are suspicious moles or ones that change shape or color. You should contact your doctor immediately if you have sores or lesions that don’t heal. Without treatment, skin cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and beyond, making it deadly or more difficult to treat.

There might be biological differences

A report published in Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2012 points to possible biological differences between men and women when it comes to skin cancer. Women have a greater chance of survival. Not only did researchers note that the cancer was less likely to spread to lymph nodes in women, when it did, it took longer. But even when the cancer was found in lymph nodes, women still had a higher survival and cure rate.

It’s impossible to do anything about the biological differences; however, regular check-ups not only allow doctors to look for suspicious skin lesions, they also raise awareness. Men who regularly visit the doctor may be more aware of warning signs and be vigilant about completing self-skin checks.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.