Although skin cancer doesn’t discriminate between men and women, it’s a hard truth that men simply aren’t as proactive about detecting and treating the disease as their female counterparts. For every male dermatology patient I see here in Lombard, Illinois, I know that there are at least 5 who should see a doctor but haven’t.
According to a recent survey created jointly by The Skin Cancer Foundation and a major sunscreen manufacturer, 70 percent of men admitted to not knowing the warning signs of skin cancer. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, in 2012, twice as many men than women died of melanoma. With just a bit of knowledge, we can remedy this alarming trend. In honor of June being Men’s Health Month, let’s take a look at some of the basics of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Although it’s seldom invasive, it can cause issues if left untreated. It often manifests itself as a sore that won’t heal, a red, flaky patch of skin, or a firm, shiny nodule.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common form of skin cancer. It often looks like a wart or a thick, rough, raised patch of skin that bleeds easily. Although slow-growing, more than 8,000 people die from SCC each year.
Melanoma is the least common, but deadliest, form of skin cancer. It’s characterized by a mole with irregular borders, multiple colors, asymmetry, or a diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser. Melanoma can develop from an existing mole or present as a new lesion, so it’s vital to get familiar with your skin through regular self-exams. While not all moles with these characteristics are melanoma, it’s important to have them examined by a dermatologist to rule out the condition.
Unlike some other forms of cancer, you can potentially decrease your risk with just a few simple lifestyle adjustments. By avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, covering up when you do go outside, and incorporating a good-quality broad-spectrum sunblock into your usual routine, you can go a long way toward heading off the threat. If you’re over 30, see a dermatologist for a baseline skin check and get to know your own moles and freckles so you can spot changes quickly.