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Skin Cancer Prevention: It’s Never too Late

Growing older brings health concerns, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but there’s still one risk that we tend to minimize—skin cancer, the most prevalent type of cancer there is. Adding to the worry, dermatologists now warn that men over 50 have an increased risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. And a new survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that most men are lax when it comes to proper sun protection and are unsure how to examine their skin for skin cancer.

The Academy conducted an online survey of adults nationwide with these startling results:

  • When in the sun, just 29 percent of men say they always protect their skin, compared with 43 percent of women.
  • 39 percent of men compared to 28 percent of women say they prefer to enjoy sunshine and not worry about what they should do to protect themselves from it.
  • 46 percent feel they knew how to examine their skin for signs of skin cancer, compared with 59 percent of women.

“This survey demonstrates that many men do not protect themselves from the sun when outdoors and that some still believe that sun exposure is good for their health. This is a very troubling combination in light of the fact that the major risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet light,” said board-certified dermatologist Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, FAAD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Brown University School of Medicine. “Men need to examine their skin and see a dermatologist if they spot anything changing, bleeding or growing.


  • More than 3.5 million skin cancer cases affecting 2 million people are diagnosed annually.
  • It is estimated that there will be about 131,810 new cases of melanoma in 2012—55,560 noninvasive (in situ) and 76,250 invasive (44,250 men and 32,000 women).
  • Caucasians and men older than 50 are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.
  • Although before age 40 melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men, after age 40 rates are almost twice as high in men as in women.
  • The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent.

“The survey results should serve as a wake-up call to men to be vigilant about protecting their skin from sun exposure and examining their skin regularly for skin cancer,” said Dr. Rohrer. “Loved ones can assist by examining their partners’ skin and noting anything suspicious. These exams are vital since the early detection of skin cancer helps save lives.”

To help educate the public about skin cancer and change behaviors to better prevent and detect skin cancer, the Academy launched its new SPOT Skin Cancer™ initiative this May, which is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®. The campaign’s simple tagline of “Prevent. Detect. Live.” focuses on the positive actions people can take to protect themselves from skin cancer, including seeing a dermatologist when appropriate.