DR. MITCH: It’s Not Just the Prostate!

“Movember” is the month when we try to raise awareness about men’s health issues. Prostate health and prostate cancer get a lot of deserved attention now (which I wish persisted throughout the year!). But we shouldn’t lose sight of other men’s health issues.

For example: did you know that by age 50 men are much more likely than women (of the same age) to develop melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer. With age the numbers only get worse. By age 65, men are twice as likely to develop it. By 80, three times more likely. Even worse, men are more likely to die of melanoma at any age. 

Why?

In a large study done by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016, they found that men knew a lot less about skin cancer and how to prevent it. With less knowledge the men start out at a disadvantage when it comes to protecting themselves. Women also use makeup and other cosmetics which can provide protection.

But there does seem to be more to this difference. Researchers think that there may be something to men’s skin that’s key. We already know that men’s skin is different. It tends to be thicker with less fat underneath. There’s more collagen and elastin which give the skin more firmness. It turns out that these structural differences make men’s skin more likely to be damaged by the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays.

So while we remind men to have their prostates checked let’s not forget during this month and the rest of the year to get the word out about skin cancer to the men in your lives. Get them to protect their skin with the proper clothing (hats and sunglasses!) and remind them to use sunblock (at least a Sun Protection Factor of 30) and reapply it often enough. And help them check their skin. Look for a lack of symmetry to any spot, a spot with irregular borders, various colors within the same spot, anything larger than the eraser you’d find on the top of a pencil; and any change in a spot. Caught early, melanoma can be stopped!