Skin cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. It can happen to anyone at any age. However, there are certain types of skin cancers that are more common in men than in women. Melanoma remains one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, but it is curable if detected in the early stages. This is why seeing a dermatologist for regular skin cancer screenings is important to detect early signs of skin cancer. Read on to find out why skin cancer screening is important for men.
Why Skin Cancer Screening is Important for Men?
According to statistics by the American College of Dermatology, skin cancer can affect anyone at any age, and it is the most common form of cancer in the United States.(1) However, there are certain forms of skin cancer, like melanoma, that are known to affect men more than women.(2) Even though melanoma is one of the deadlier forms of skin cancer, it can be cured if detected early.(3, 4, 5) This is why consulting a dermatologist for undertaking regular screening tests for skin cancer is so necessary. Regular skin cancer screenings can help you detect any early signs of skin cancer in a timely manner so that treatment can be started. The earlier you find and start treatment for skin cancer, the better are your chances of reducing or avoiding the complications that arise from untreated skin cancer.(6)
There are also many other reasons why it is important for men to consult a dermatologist for regular skin cancer screenings. These include:
- To address the physical signs of aging that many may want to address, including skin discoloration or wrinkles and fine lines.
- To diagnose any underlying causes of hair loss and to also look for the proper treatment that may help restore or preserve hair.
- To treat any other skin conditions like varicose veins, rosacea, or acne.
- To diagnose and treat rashes, skin-related symptoms like itching, or symptoms caused by any contact allergies.
Let us take a look at what you should expect when you go for a skin cancer screening or a full-body exam from a dermatologist and other such facts that can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.
What are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
Some of the common risk factors for skin cancer include:(7)
- Light skin tone or skin that burns easily
- Getting older
- Having light-colored hair that is reddish or blonde
- Having eyes that are green or blue in color
- Having a lot of moles on the body
- Having a family history of melanoma or any other type of skin cancer (usually in a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent)
- Being immunocompromised
- Having had skin cancer earlier
- Having a history of using tanning beds
- Having a history of undergoing radiation, such as for cancer treatment
How to Prepare for a Skin Cancer Screening?
For men who are at a higher risk of skin cancer, it is typically a good idea to do an entire body self-check-up every month. When you are doing the self-check, you must look at all the areas of your skin, including your hands, feet, scalp, and groin. This is to ensure that you can notice the following:(8, 9)
- Any new growths
- New itching lesions
- Any new or changing moles(10)
- Any pink scaly spots that are not going away
- Any growths that tend to bleed on their own
- Any lesions or growths of concern
- Any non-healing ulcerations
It is ideally recommended that you do a self-check before heading to your skin cancer screening appointment as well as this will help you take note of any potential changes that you want to bring to your dermatologist’s attention. This may include:
- Any growths
- Any discoloration of the skin
- New moles of concern
- Moles that are changing
- Any suspicious lumps
Suppose you are going for a skin cancer screening fort for the first time. In that case, it is a good idea to check with your immediate family members about your family history, and if anyone in the family had skin cancer, especially melanoma since melanoma tends to be hereditary.
If you are concerned about any changes to your skin or any new moles or spots, your dermatologist is going to ask you certain follow-up questions, which may include:
- How long have the changes been there?
- If you are experiencing any symptoms, or if there has been any change in the lesion?
- If it has changed, then how? (As in shape, color, has it started to hurt, to bleed, etc.)
- Do you wear sunscreen?
- Do you have any family history of skin cancer or anyone with precancerous lesions?
- Do you use tanning beds?
- Do you have a history of sunburns?(11, 12)
What To Expect During A Skin Cancer Screening?
A skin cancer screening can take anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how extensive your examination is and how many questions you have for your dermatologist. Here are some things you can expect will happen at your skin cancer screening appointment.
- You will be asked to undress fully and given a gown to wear. In some cases, you may only need to undress to show the areas that you are concerned about. A nurse, dermatologist, or medical assistant will let you know how much clothing you have to remove.
- If you are undergoing a total body skin exam or skin cancer screening, your dermatologist will check all the areas of your skin. They will begin from your scalp and go all the way down to your toes.
- If the dermatologist notices any actinic keratoses (precancerous) spots, they will likely treat them with liquid nitrogen. If there are any lesions they are concerned about, they are likely to do a biopsy of the lesion and send it to a dermatopathologist, who is a doctor trained in looking at and diagnosing skin biopsies.
If your dermatologist does not find any concerning signs of skin cancer, the screening will be completed, and you are free to go home.
Why Is A Biopsy Done?
If your dermatologist conducts a biopsy, it probably means that they are concerned that there might be cancerous cells present that need further evaluation. A biopsy involves a tissue sample being taken from the concerned lesion that the doctor believes may be cancerous. It is important to remember that undergoing a biopsy does not automatically mean you have skin cancer. The tissue sample is sent to a dermatopathologist who will look at the skin cells closely to check for the presence of cancerous cells.(13, 14)
Biopsy results typically become available within two weeks, and they provide the correct answer as to whether the lesion that was biopsied is affec5ted by skin cancer. If you have not heard back from the dermatologist after two weeks, you can call up their office to enquire about the reports.
Regardless of whether your results are negative or positive for skin cancer, it is your right to receive the results, so you should follow up with your dermatologist’s office to ask about the results.
How Often To Get Skin Cancer Screening Done?
It is typically recommended that you get skin cancer screenings done at least once every year, especially if you are aware that you are at an increased risk of skin cancer. You may also schedule a skin cancer screening during your annual physical exam.
If you are concerned that you have found something new on your skin before your yearly exam, you can always make a separate appointment with your dermatologist. If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer type such as squamous or basal cell, you should visit your dermatologist every six months during the first few years after your diagnosis.(15)
How To Reduce The Risk Of Skin Cancer?
There are many preventive steps you can take to reduce the risk of skin cancer.(16) These include:
- Limiting the time you spend in direct sunlight.
- Wearing protective clothing while outside in the sun.
- Use a mineral sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) or 15 or more.
- Avoid using indoor tanning equipment that exposes your skin to direct UV light.
Research has shown that men are at a greater risk of developing skin cancers like melanoma. Early detection of skin cancer from regular skin cancer screenings can be vital in diagnosing and treating this type of cancer successfully. This is because skin cancer can usually be treated successfully if it is found early. If you are at a high risk of developing skin cancer, you should consider seeing a dermatologist once a year to undergo a thorough skin cancer screening. Taking care of your skin and hair while following a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Aad.org. 2021. What to expect at a skin cancer screening. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/public-health/skin-cancer-screenings/what-to-expect> [Accessed 2 November 2021].
- Aad.org. 2021. Melanoma strikes men harder. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/melanoma/men-50> [Accessed 2 November 2021].
- Diepgen, T.L. and Mahler, V., 2002. The epidemiology of skin cancer. British Journal of Dermatology, 146, pp.1-6.
- Gloster Jr, H.M. and Brodland, D.G., 1996. The epidemiology of skin cancer. Dermatologic Surgery, 22(3), pp.217-226.
- Madan, V., Lear, J.T. and Szeimies, R.M., 2010. Non-melanoma skin cancer. The lancet, 375(9715), pp.673-685.
- Linares, M.A., Zakaria, A. and Nizran, P., 2015. Skin cancer. Primary care: Clinics in office practice, 42(4), pp.645-659.
- Cdc.gov. 2021. What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer? | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/risk_factors.htm> [Accessed 2 November 2021].
- Sinclair, R., 2012. Skin checks. Australian family physician, 41(7), pp.464-469.
- Hay, J.L. and Christian, S.N., 2021. Skin cancer screening. Psycho-Oncology, p.87.
- Walter, F.M., Humphrys, E., Tso, S., Johnson, M. and Cohn, S., 2010. Patient understanding of moles and skin cancer, and factors influencing presentation in primary care: a qualitative study. BMC family practice, 11(1), pp.1-10.
- Wheat, C.M., Wesley, N.O. and Jackson, B.A., 2013. Recognition of skin cancer and sun protective behaviors in skin of color. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD, 12(9), pp.1029-1032.
- Glanz, K. and Mayer, J.A., 2005. Reducing ultraviolet radiation exposure to prevent skin cancer: Methodology and measurement. American journal of preventive medicine, 29(2), pp.131-142.
- Katalinic, A., Waldmann, A., Weinstock, M.A., Geller, A.C., Eisemann, N., Greinert, R., Volkmer, B. and Breitbart, E., 2012. Does skin cancer screening save lives? An observational study comparing trends in melanoma mortality in regions with and without screening. Cancer, 118(21), pp.5395-5402.
- Choudhury, K., Volkmer, B., Greinert, R., Christophers, E. and Breitbart, E.W., 2012. Effectiveness of skin cancer screening programmes. British Journal of Dermatology, 167, pp.94-98.
- Johnson, M.M., Leachman, S.A., Aspinwall, L.G., Cranmer, L.D., Curiel-Lewandrowski, C., Sondak, V.K., Stemwedel, C.E., Swetter, S.M., Vetto, J., Bowles, T. and Dellavalle, R.P., 2017. Skin cancer screening: recommendations for data-driven screening guidelines and a review of the US Preventive Services Task Force controversy. Melanoma management, 4(1), pp.13-37.
- Cdc.gov. 2021. What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer? | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm> [Accessed 2 November 2021].