While women in their teens and 20s have long been the target of skin-cancer awareness campaigns, the American Academy of Dermatology has been stepping up efforts to reach out to men age 50 and older.
Growing older brings an increase in health concerns, including cancer. In fact, dermatologists warn that men older than 50 have an increased risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
In research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, two studies found alarming trends for men.
A study of 167 patients diagnosed with melanoma over a five-year period examined which groups of patients were most and least likely to detect their own melanomas before being evaluated by a dermatologist. Men 50 or older were more likely to be diagnosed with invasive melanoma by a dermatologist than women in the same age group or men and women in younger age groups.
Another study surveyed 478 adults who sought a skin-cancer screening by a dermatologist to determine if an individual’s age or gender played a role in seeking a skin exam. The study found that the primary reason men 50 years or older sought a skin-cancer screening was due to a previous skin-cancer diagnosis (64.6 percent).
This group was less likely than all other patients to seek a skin-cancer screening because of a particular spot they were concerned might be skin cancer (11 percent vs. 22.5 percent). It’s a trend that Dr. Marguerite Germain of Germain Dermatology sees in her practice.
“As the study says, in my practice, I find that older men are much less likely to get a suspicious mole checked. They do not point things out to me on exam. If something is unusual and needs excision or biopsy, I am the one that usually finds it,” says Germain, adding that most older men come into her office “because their wives told them” to.
“With respect to melanoma, because of this lack of attention to their moles, men 50 years or older are more likely to be diagnosed with invasive melanoma than women in the same age group or men or women in younger age groups,” she says.
“Therefore, these older men are more likely to die of melanoma because of delayed diagnosis.”