Aussie men, thick skin can still get skin cancer

Dear Ed,

There’s no denying the fact that skin cancer is our national cancer; two in three people who grow up in Australia will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their life. But not many people know that men are more likely to be diagnosed than women.   

In NSW, men over the age of 40 are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed and 2.5 times more likely to die of melanoma than women of a similar age, so this Men’s Health Week, we’re urging men across the state to pledge to do better when it comes to sun protection.

Evidence has shown men generally have poorer sun protection behaviours, and with UV as the source of nearly all skin cancers in Australia, when you protect your skin you reduce your risk.  Men are also more likely to work outdoors compared to women, which increases exposure to UV radiation by five to 10 times the amount of UV radiation than working indoors. Our recent survey also showed that a significantly lower proportion of than men than women said they use sun protection year-round.

In NSW, we experience UV levels high enough to do damage at least 10 months of the year across our state, so it is crucial that men consider sun protection as an everyday habit. We have higher rates of melanoma along the coast and find increased risk for those living in the north of the state, due to higher UV levels being closer to the equator.

It’s never too late to reduce your risk of skin cancer, so don’t wait for summer to start taking sun protection seriously. Remember that the easiest way to be sun safe is to have some form of protection between your skin and the sun – a shirt, sunscreen, a hat, shade and sunglasses. 
Get to know your own skin, including skin not normally exposed to the sun, and speak to a doctor if you notice any change in shape, colour or size of a spot, or the development of a new spot.

Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW