Men's Health

Older Men at Higher Risk for Melanoma

Most men still think that sun exposure is good for their health and don't bother with UV protection. But that behavior puts them at risk for melanoma as they grow older.

Close-up photo of an older man outdoors

According to a recent online survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), 39 percent of men say they don't worry about protecting themselves from UV exposure - they prefer to just enjoy their time in the sun. Just 28 percent of women feel this way.

Only 29 percent of men say they always protect their skin when outdoors. Forty-three percent of women say they do so.

"This is a very troubling combination in light of the fact that the major risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet light," says Thomas Rohrer, M.D., at Brown University School of Medicine.

Simple solutions

Yet limiting exposure to UV radiation is easy, according to the CDC:

  • Stay in the shade, especially at midday.

  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

  • Wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shade your face, ears, and neck.

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on any exposed skin. The sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.

Self-exams important

The survey also found that only 46 percent of men knew how to examine their skin for warning signs of cancer, compared with 59 percent of women.

"Men need to examine their skin and see a dermatologist if they spot anything changing, bleeding or growing," Dr. Rohrer says.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 76,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed this year. Before age 40, the number of melanoma cases is higher in women. After age 40, the rate is almost twice as high in men as in women, the ACS says.

Best if caught early

The good news is that the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is diagnosed and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent, the AAD says.

"The survey results should serve as a wake-up call to men to be vigilant about protecting their skin from sun exposure and examining their skin regularly for skin cancer," Dr. Rohrer says.

"Loved ones can assist by examining their partners' skin and noting anything suspicious. These exams are vital since the early detection of skin cancer helps save lives."

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Dermatology - Men over 50 need to get in the swing of preventing and detecting skin cancer

American Cancer Society - Be Safe in the Sun

CDC - Skin Cancer Prevention

July 2012

The Skinny on Skin Cancer

Here is a breakdown on the three types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma. This is the most common type of skin cancer. Warning signs include an open sore that doesn't heal, a reddish patch that may itch or hurt, a shiny bump that looks like a mole, a pink growth with an indentation in the center, or a shiny scar-like area. These signs often appear on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, or back.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma. This is the second most common skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma is often raised or lumpy, with rough, scaly surfaces on a reddish base. It often is found on the face, neck, bald scalp, hands, rim of the ears, or lower lip.

  • Melanoma. This type of skin cancer is uncommon, but the number of melanoma cases has been rising for at least 30 years, the ACS says. If not caught early, melanoma spreads and can be fatal. Melanoma first appears as a flat or slightly raised, multicolored mole with an irregular border. It may develop in an older mole or appear as a new spot. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body but is most often found on the upper back, legs, or trunk.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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