I'm often asked where on the body are men most vulnerable to getting skin cancer and how that compares to women.
Cancer Research in the UK put together a really helpful graphic showing the difference between malignant melanoma incidence by body part. It shows the difference between men and women and there is a marked difference.
Before revealing the results, it’s worth pausing to consider a couple of definitions.
A malignant melanoma is cancerous and one that is capable of spreading and invading other tissues or body parts. This is the most aggressive and life-threatening type of skin cancer.
A non malignant melanoma is a very common type of cancerous growth that affects the top layers of the skin but the risk of spread is less than 2% and 90% are successfully cured.
So, back to the question in hand…
In men, 41% of malignant melanoma cases occur on the trunk i.e. the chest and back.
For women, the majority of malignant melanoma cases occur on the legs and then arms.
Equipped with this information, I wanted to focus on two things: monitoring and prevention.
Not that you should neglect other parts of the body but these statistics would suggest that, as a man, you would be wise to cast a regular eye over the skin on your chest and back for any abnormalities or changes.
Ask a friend, partner, girlfriend or wife to look at your chest and back every three months to see if they can see any marks, moles or abnormalities on your skin. It’s easier for you to monitor your arms, legs and face on your own.
The key is tracking whether or not these marks, moles or abnormalities have changed. Take photos on your phone and store them in a specific folder in your photos app. Then you can more easily see if anything has changed.
I know this sounds like a hassle. I know that less than 1% of you will actually do this. Just remember, men are more likely than women to get skin cancer. Men are also more likely to die from skin cancer, often because it has been discovered too late. But this needs to change. I’ve heard endless horror stories from young guys and doctors who were shocked to discover they had cancer. It’s a huge issue and it’s not going away.
I truly hope this spurs you into action. Even if you do your own self-check every 6 months, that’s a start.
Prevention is probably easier but just as annoying for most guys.
We know that the sun causes up to 90% of skin cancers. So, blocking the ultra violet (UV) rays that touch the skin is critical. When you are outside, cover up. Even in the winter time. It’s not about how hot it is, it’s about how strong the UV rays are on a given day. Wear sunscreen. Be diligent about applying sun protection to the chest and back, in particular.
I recognize it’s virtually impossible to cover every square centimetre of exposed skin, for every second of the day. That’s why clothing is such a good option. But skin cancer is more ‘controllable’ than other cancers. There are things you can do to prevent it. So please start.
That’s all for now. Please take action: monitor and prevent. Better still, please share this with your bro's so more guys take action.
Little by little, we can all help each other.