By Lt. Cmdr. Richard Langton, division officer, Occupational Health Medicine Division, Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
Did you know men are twice as likely to die from melanoma, a form of skin cancer, as women? Men are also much more likely than women to develop the other more common types of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
The reason for the increased risk has to do with the amount of time spent outdoors without using sun protection. Men are frequently employed in jobs that take them outside exposing them to the elements, specifically the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light produced by the sun. Excessive exposure to UV radiation causes sunburn and early aging. However, any amount of exposure to UV rays may damage skin cell DNA leading to a dangerous cancer-causing mutation.
Skin cancer usually occurs in men above the age of 50, but reports of skin cancer in men less than 40 are increasing. Caucasian males of Northern European descent who have a fair complexion are at the greatest risk for developing skin cancer. However, African Americans are also at risk for melanoma—the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The basal and squamous types frequently occur on body areas with the most exposure to the sun, such as the face, neck, and hands. Melanoma, however, can strike anywhere and even in areas not normally exposed to the sun.
Skin cancer is most treatable if detected early. Hence, it’s important for you to frequently examine your own skin. Be suspicious of any new skin spots or old spots are changing color, thick or crusty, peeling, enlarging, bleeding, or evolving in any other way. If you detect anything concerning, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.
In conclusion, even if you do not work outdoors, remember to protect yourself from harmful sun-rays by following these recommendations from the CDC:
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.