Why Are So Many Young Men Dying From Skin Cancer?

Dermatologists haven't quite figured it out yet, but they have a few theories

melanoma for young men
Melanoma is on the rise for non-Hispanic white men aged 15 to 39.
Joel Bengs/Unsplash

According to recent research from Men’s Health, fatal cases of melanoma are on the rise amongst men, especially non-Hispanic white men between the ages of 15 and 39. From 1995 to 2014, head and neck melanoma jumped by 51%. And more than 60% of those who died from it were young men. This gender disparity continues well into old age, too. The American Academy of Dermatology reports: “By age 80, men are three times more likely to develop melanoma than women.”

Why? Dermatologists are scrambling to figure that out, but for now they’re working with a few reasonable theories:

  • Men are more likely to take their shirts off while doing yard work or playing sports, without having applied any sunscreen.
  • There’s hormonal activity at play — testosterone may catalyze cancer cells to grow faster. This could explain why younger guys are particularly at risk.
  • For whatever reason, men don’t know or think enough about skin cancer. They don’t check their backs for tags or schedule yearly check-ups.

It could be one of those; it could be all three. We don’t know for sure yet. The reality is that melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer out there, and men need to start taking it more seriously. As one dermatologist says to Men’s Health, “When we catch it when it’s not spread at all, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. [But] once it becomes more metastatic, that drops dramatically down to 25 percent.”

Melanoma isn’t always an obvious dark brown splotch. Sometimes it appears as small and pink (like a blister or pimple), and you’ll think nothing of it. That’s why it’s important to regularly see a doctor and get it diagnosed before it’s able to spread. In the meanwhile, especially headed into the warmer months, sunscreen is your best friend. Find some of our favorites here, and stay safe out there.

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