Men over 50 have an increased risk of melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer. Wives can help save their husbands by learning to spot melanoma symptoms.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of these cancers — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — are seldom invasive and, especially if caught early, the odds of a cure are high. However, another type of less common skin cancer, melanoma, is potentially deadly.
Melanoma skin cancer is far more likely than other skin cancers to invade tissues and spread throughout the body, including metastasizing to the brain, the National Cancer Institute points out. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of melanoma and get prompt medical attention for suspicious spots on the skin.
Unfortunately, many people fail to check their own bodies for melanoma symptoms. And the Americans at higher risk than average for melanoma skin cancer — men over age 50 — are the most likely to not look for signs of this dangerous malignancy.
However, women in this same age group typically do scan their skin regularly and are far more apt to notice a change in a mole that could be skin cancer. In fact, women are not only better at spotting skin cancer on their own bodies, they are nine time more likely to notice melanoma on others, too, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
“Because men over 50 have an increased risk of melanoma, it’s important for them to conduct regular skin self-exams to detect the disease in its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable,” said dermatologist Henry W. Lim, MD, president of the AAD. “Since it can be difficult to examine some parts of your body on your own, it’s best to ask a partner for help.”
An AAD survey of 1,250 married women between the ages 40 of 64 revealed that most aren’t helping check their husbands’ bodies for possible melanoma symptoms — even though 45 percent of the women said they would be far more likely than their partners to notice a suspicious skin change. However, 35 percent revealed they had found a worrisome spot on their husband’s skin their spouse hadn’t noticed.
Two-thirds of the women surveyed reported they check their own bodies for signs of skin cancer at least once a year, but only 44 percent helped their partner examine their skin. What’s more, only 37 percent of the AAD survey participants stated their spouses examined their own skin for irregularities at least once a year while less than 30 percent didn’t know if their husbands ever did a skin self-exam.
Melanoma symptoms include:
- Changes in a mole’s size, shape, or color
- Irregular edges or borders
- A mole that oozes, itches, bleeds, or is ulcerated
The AAD urges women to become proactive and help their husbands spot these signs of skin cancer. To that end, the organization has created an educational video, Check Him Out, which uses humorous scenarios to spur women to regularly check their husbands for skin changes.
“We hope this video encourages women to check their partners and check themselves. If you notice any suspicious spots on your skin or your partner’s, or anything changing, itching, or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist,” Lim said.
The AAD website SpotSkinCancer.org, offers direction on how to perform a skin self-exam, information on locating free skin cancer screening in your area, and a downloadable body mole map you can use to track changes in your skin — and your spouse’s.
The CDC advises reducing the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers by regularly using a broad spectrum sunscreen (with an SPF of 15 or higher) and avoiding indoor tanning. It’s important to stay in the shade, especially during midday hours, too, and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs when you are in the sun.
March 18, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA