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Why Skin Cancer Is on the Rise in Men

Why Skin Cancer Is on the Rise in Men

Many guys don’t do enough to protect themselves from the sun.

In 2013, a makeup artist on the set of X Men: Days of Future Past spotted a suspicious growth on Hugh Jackman’s nose. At her persistence, the award-winning actor visited a dermatologist, who diagnosed him with a basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that’s primarily caused by UV exposure. Since February 2017, Jackman has been diagnosed with skin cancer six more times. Fortunately, it’s always been highly treatable.

Many guys aren’t as fortunate. A new study based on data from 33 countries finds that over the last three decades, deaths from melanoma—the most lethal form of skin cancer—are rising in men (even as combining chemotherapy and two types of immunotherapy is making it a much more curable disease). Not surprising, since research shows that guys—like Jackman, who says his woes are because he never wore sunscreen as a lad—often don’t do enough to protect themselves from the sun. The rate is falling or staying the same for women.

One reason: Sun protection products are advertised more in women’s media, a market that welcomes any product that promises wrinkle prevention. As a result, men see sunscreen as less essential and may only use it when they’ve already started to turn red.

Research is also looking for any underlying biological differences that make men more vulnerable to melanoma.

Whatever the reason for the unfortunate discrepancy, men need to take notice. Even if crow’s feet aren’t your concern, guys, cancer should be (in winter too!). Learn from Jackman and wear sunscreen.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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