Men, Skin Cancer, Prevention and Sun Screens

Christopher Buthorn, PAThe topic of sunscreen use is one that’s frequently discussed in women’s magazines, online health websites and many other places. We do not often hear so much about men, and their use of sun protection factor lotions. Christopher Buthorn, one of our practices’ Certified Physician Assistants, tackles the topic of men, skin cancer, and sun protection.

Why don’t men wear SPF lotions?

Chris said, he could only speak for himself. While not making excuses, he said, “Simply put, ‘it’s a pain.’ I think women are more apt to do what they’re supposed to do to take care of themselves and what’s good for them than men.”

When it comes to masculinity, Chris told us his perception of what stops men from using sunscreen. “Guys seem to think that putting on sunscreen as something only ‘women do’, though I think it’s changing for the better.”

When it comes to why men come to get their skin checked out, Chris has observed that “The majority of men I see in the office are only here because their ‘wife told me to come.’”

Let’s face it, guys spend a lot of time in the sun. Whether it’s an afternoon on the boat, or one spent riding the lawnmower around the backyard, fishing or watching a local game, men are out of doors as much if not more than the ladies. With so much sun exposure, it’s important to have a skin cancer screening.

Chris shared some eye-opening statistics about skin cancer:

NON-melanoma skin cancer

There are roughly 5.4 million cases of NON-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma being the most common) treated in more than 3.3 million people annually in the U.S. alone.

  • Men are generally twice as likely to develop skin cancer as compared to women.
  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer with roughly 4 million cases diagnosed in the U.S every year.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer with more than 1 million cases diagnosed in the U.S every year.
  • Actinic Keratosis is the most common skin growth considered to be a PRE-skin cancer and affects more than 58 million Americans (considered to be a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma).
  • Over the past 3 decades there have been more people diagnosed with skin cancer then all other cancers combined.
  • Roughly half of all Americans age 65 and above will have a Basal or Squamous Cell Carcinoma at some point in their life.
  • Roughly 90% of NON-melanoma skin cancers are associated with daily sun exposure.

Melanoma

It is estimated that there will be over 80,000 cases of invasive melanoma diagnosed this year (nearly 10,000 of will result in death). Melanoma may only account for less than 1% of all cancers, but does account for the majority of skin cancer related deaths.

  • The vast majority of melanoma cases are caused by exposure to the harmful UV radiation given off by the sun.
  • 25% of cases are diagnosed in people under the age of 45.
  • It is estimated that 5 or more sunburns during your lifetime doubles your risk of developing melanoma.

Prevention

Chris always tells his patients “I WANT them to go outside and enjoy their lives! I just want them to be safe and smart about it.”

Sun protection is paramount

Chris recommends applying sunscreen every 1-2 hours while in the sun. He says we should all be using a water resistant broad spectrum SPF sunscreen that helps protect us against UVA and UVB rays. Chris also tells people to use an SPF greater than 30. With our lives being so active and out of doors in the Lowcountry, water resistant sunscreens help increase the time the product is actually staying on through perspiration. If you find that you’re perspiring, take a minute to dry your skin off and reapply your sunscreen.

If you’re using sunscreen before you leave the house in the morning that’s great, but try to remember that reapplication throughout the day is just as, if not more important.

Many people don’t like the feel or smell of sunscreens; or prefer not to use them at all secondary to some of the chemical compounds found in some common place products.  In these cases, Chris encourages everyone to consider alternate ways to protect themselves against the harmful rays of the sun.

Other ways to protect yourself

  • Seek shade when able and do your best to avoid exposure to the sun during the most intense parts of the day…..generally between 10 a.m to 3p.m
  • Protective clothing. (there are many products made today that have SPF protection built-in to the fabric)
  • Do your best to consume Vitamin D through a healthy well balanced diet as opposed to seeking out the sun
  • Use caution when on the water snow or sand as these environments can alter the way sunlight is reflected onto your body increasing the risk of sunburn.

If you choose to not go out in the sun and yet you still want a tan, do not use tanning beds. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you avoid and never use them. There are many bronzers and self-tanning products which are safe and effective.

Surveillance

It’s recommended that you see a dermatologist on an annual basis. For those who have a history of basal or squamous cell carcinoma and/or a family history of skin cancer, Chris recommends getting in to be checked every 6 months. For those with a history of melanoma, Chris says, “Go to see your Dermatologist for a skin cancer screening every 3 months.”

Self Exams

Keeping track of your moles is a great practice to get into. No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “check your birthday suit on your birthday!” and ….for what it’s worth, it can be a great habit to develop. Chris advises, “Generally I tell patients to just keep an eye on their moles and to keep the ABCDE’s in mind when examining yourself.

A Asymmetry: one half of the mole should equal the other.

B Border: moles should have a nice smooth border like a frisbee.

C Color: moles should be one color each.

D Diameter: anything the size of an eraser head or bigger is not necessarily something to worry about but something that should be brought to our attention.

E Evolution: keep an eye out for moles that are growing rapidly over the course of weeks or months.

How to spot skin cancer infographic from the American Academy of Dermatology

Click the image to download the How to Spot Skin Cancer infographic the PDF from the American Academy of Dermatology

Summing up his approach to skin protection and life, Chris tells us, “At the end of the day, we want you to enjoy your life in the great outdoors with your family and friends. Combined with a healthy, well balanced diet, getting out there and being active is a very important part of living a healthy life. If you’re getting your sunscreen on regularly, avoiding the sun when able, wearing protective clothing best you can, getting in for regular exams with your dermatologist, and keeping track of your moles, you’re doing what you can to protect yourself against skin cancer. So get out there, have fun, and show skin cancer who’s the boss!”

 

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