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According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the mortality rate for melanoma, a quick-growing skin cancer, is expected to grow by 4.4% this year, with 97,610 cases of invasive melanoma being diagnosed in the United States. Of these cases, 58,120 will be men, and of the 7,990 people who die from melanoma, 5,420 will be men.

We know that women develop more melanomas than men before the age of 50, and after the age of 50 men have higher rates of melanoma. Men are also more likely to die from melanoma than women,” Jesse Miller Lewin MD, FACMS, Health.

Gender and Melanoma: What’s The Link?

The exact reason why men face a higher risk for melanoma is unknown, but there are a few theories that attempt to explain the discrepancy:

1. Hormones

A study published in Cells suggested that the hormone estrogen may offer additional protection from melanoma, with another study finding that female patients with melanoma often have better outcomes due to estrogen increasing the immune response against melanomas. 

2. Skin differences 

Speaking to Health, Dr. Susana Ortiz-Urda, a dermatologist, melanoma specialist, and co-director at the UCSF Melanoma Center, shared that men typically have thicker skin and that this skin contains more collagen, elastin, and less fat beneath the surface, than women’s skin. 

She added that studies have proposed that these differences may explain men’s increased susceptibility to sun damage and skin cancer.

3. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation

Speaking to the Washington Post, Ida Orengo, a professor and chair of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that men are more likely than women to work and play outdoors than women, so this translates to more cumulative sun exposure over their lifetime.

4. Poor knowledge 

While melanoma disproportionately affects men more, they don’t seem to know much about it.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a survey they conducted in 2016 found that fewer men than women had the necessary knowledge about skin cancer that could help them better protect themselves. 

Fact

Men who knew this is true

Women who knew this is true

There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

56%

76%

A base tan cannot protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

54%

70%

Skin cancer can develop on skin that gets intermittent or little sun.

56%

65%

American Academy of Dermatology (2016)

5. Poor skin health habits

Not only are men less likely to understand the risks and facts of skin cancer, but they’re also less likely to engage in skincare habits that can protect them from sun damage. Research highlights how women are more likely than men to wear sunscreen.

“Women are more likely to wear sunscreen, more likely to stay out of the sun, and young women are more likely to have done a self-examination looking for skin cancers and also much more likely to see a doctor for anything concerning,” explained Luke Maxfield, a board-certified dermatologist, to HuffPost. 

Dr. Maxfield added that these habits are extremely important, given that more than half of melanomas may be first noticed by people examining their own skin at home.

What can men do?

If men want to do better and really protect their health, then they can adopt the following habits:

1. Limit exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation: This includes wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF50, avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, and wearing sun-protective clothing and broad-brimmed hats.

2. Check your skin: Individuals with fair skin, light-colored hair, blue eyes, and a family history of skin cancer face a higher risk for melanoma. They particularly need to get into the habit of performing self-examination every 2–3 months. To do so, either grab a floor-length mirror, a hand-held mirror, or your partner and examine your skin for any markings that match the ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry – One side doesn’t match the other.
  • Border – The spot has uneven or undefined edges.
  • Color – The spot contains multiple colors.
  • Diameter – The spot will likely be at least 6 mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).
  • Evolution – The spot has grown in size over time.

If you find any irregular markings or growth on your body, contact your physician or a dermatologist for additional testing. 

Want to know more?

Skin cancers are the most common group of cancers diagnosed worldwide, with more than 1.5 million new cases estimated in 2020. We spoke to leading dermatologist Dr. Sian Hartshorne about the disease. 

References

Dika, E., Patrizi, A., Lambertini, M., Manuelpillai, N., Fiorentino, M., Altimari, A., Ferracin, M., Lauriola, M., Fabbri, E., Campione, E., Veronesi, G., & Scarfì, F. (2019). Estrogen Receptors and Melanoma: A Review. Cells, 8(11), 1463. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells8111463

Holman, D. M., Berkowitz, Z., Guy, G. P., Jr, Hawkins, N. A., Saraiya, M., & Watson, M. (2015). Patterns of sunscreen use on the face and other exposed skin among US adults. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology73(1), 83–92.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2015.02.1112

Smalley K. S. (2018). Why do women with melanoma do better than men?. eLife7, e33511. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.33511

MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash
Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a journalist graduate and writer, specializing in health, beauty, and wellness. She also has a passion for poetry, equality, and natural hair. Identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to provide the latest information on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle and leave a more equitable society behind.

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