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Why does melanoma hit men particularly hard?

A man rests his chin on his thumbs, smiling.

June 2, 2022— Heading outside for some fun or to get a job done? It's always important to protect your skin and your health from ultraviolet (UV) sunlight, a main cause of melanoma (the most serious skin cancer). And since summer is coming and the outdoors is calling, it's a good time to learn about how melanoma affects guys.

A risk that rises for men

To be crystal clear, anyone can get melanoma. But it affects men and women differently, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports. After age 50, men are likelier to be diagnosed with melanoma. And men of all ages are more likely than women to die from the disease.

Why is this? We don't know for sure. According to the AAD, it could be that:

  • Men aren't as aware of melanoma as women are, as the group's 2016 survey suggests.
  • Women tend to use sunscreen more often than men do—as well as cosmetic products that sometimes contain sunscreen ingredients.
  • Differences in men's skin make them more vulnerable to UV damage.

Defending against melanoma

Whatever the reasons for men's increased melanoma risk, here's what's important to remember: Men (and everyone else) can do something about melanoma.

To help prevent melanoma:

Wear sunscreen every day. Check the label to make sure you're using a broad-spectrum (guards against UVA and UVB sun rays), water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) number of 30 or higher.

Seek shade whenever possible. Do this especially during late morning and early afternoon, when sunlight is strongest.

Wear long sleeves and pants. When you wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts, your legs and arms may receive a lot of sun damage. Cover your skin to keep it safe. You can even buy UV-blocking clothing to cover your skin. Also, choose a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your head and face.

Spotting problems

Check your skin regularly. This may help you find any melanoma that develops there as early as possible.

When melanoma is found early, it's often very treatable. But it can be deadly if it evades detection and spreads. Look for new, changing or bleeding spots or moles, which could be melanoma or other skin cancers. Use a mirror or have someone help you check hard-to-reach areas, like your back. Report any suspicious skin changes to your doctor right away.

Take a look at this infographic to learn more about what melanoma looks like.

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