A Guy’s Guide to Prevention
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, are white men over age 50. Between work and play, men over 40 spend the most time outdoors and rank highest in annual exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation. Yet men are least likely to be diligent about performing monthly skin self-exams or regularly using sunscreen.
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer — and if found early, it is usually highly treatable. However, once melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, it becomes much more difficult to treat, and may even be fatal. Because men generally don’t pay as much attention to their skin as women, they’re less likely to discover cancerous growths early.
Are you at risk?
Anyone who is exposed to the sun is at risk, but heredity is also a factor: if you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with melanoma, your risk of developing it is 50 percent greater than someone who has no immediate family history.
Warning signs and symptoms
Melanoma often appears as a new mole, spot or growth on the skin or a change in an existing one. Give your skin the ABCDE test, and call your physician immediately if you have any of the following:
- Asymmetry: Draw an imaginary line down the center of the mole or spot. The two sides should be identical. If they’re not, get it checked.
- Border: The border of the spot is blurred or uneven.
- Color: The color varies from one area to another.
- Diameter: The diameter is larger than 6mm (about the size of a pencil eraser).
- Elevation: The mole is raised above the skin and has an uneven surface.
The first line of defense against skin cancer is avoiding or limiting your exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays can cause sunburn. UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays, can lead to premature aging of the skin and also may suppress the immune system, which in turn can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Overexposure to either one can lead to skin cancer.
However, since staying indoors all day isn’t practical (or even possible if you work outdoors), use sunscreen regularly to reduce your exposure:
- Everyone, regardless of skin type, should wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 daily — even on overcast days, when up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can still pass through clouds. Apply it after shaving and before a moisturizer.
- No more excuses about sunscreen being too greasy, smelling too flowery or running into your eyes when you sweat or swim. Non-greasy, waterproof and unscented sunscreens are sold in any drugstore. Some manufacturers even produce sunscreen products especially for men.
- Wear a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF any time you are outdoors.
- Do an all-over skin self-exam once a month to look for any changes. Use a mirror or enlist a friend to help you check hard-to-see areas.
- Have a professional skin evaluation at least once a year by a Scripps dermatologist. The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. For a referral to a dermatologist, call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) or see our doctor finder.