Study: Older Men Need Skin Cancer Screenings, Too

By: Kelly Flanigan

Men age 50 and older are not properly heeding skin care advice, according to the findings of a study out today by Laura Ferris, M.D., a UPMC dermatologist and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Unlike other cancers where there are specific age guidelines for diagnostic screenings, there is no age recommendation for skin cancer screenings. Therefore, dermatologists have reiterated the importance of self-examinations for early signs of skin cancer such as suspicious moles or lesions, and continued communication with their dermatologists.
In the study, Dr. Ferris reviewed the cases of 167 patients diagnosed with melanoma over a five-year period and determined which groups of patients were most likely and least likely to detect their own melanomas before being evaluated by a dermatologist. The study found that 101 of the melanomas, or 60.5 percent, were found by the patients but that the older a person was, the more melanomas they missed during self-examinations. In particular, men who were 50 years or older were more likely to be diagnosed with invasive melanoma than women of the same age or younger participants of either gender.

“Older men are most at risk for melanoma and are most likely to die due to a delayed diagnosis,” said Dr. Ferris. “This should be a wake-up call to men over 50 and their loved ones. It’s vitally important that men check their skin regularly and see a dermatologist if they notice a spot that is changing, growing or looks unusual.”

Dr. Ferris suggests the following tips for conducting effective self-examinations:

  • Use a mirror to examine hard-to-see places.
  • Look for the ugly duckling, or the one mole that looks different from the rest.
  • Pay attention to any mole that is changing or growing rapidly. Nodular melanomas may be pink or red bumps that appear suddenly and grow. They often do not look like a classic brown and black melanoma but are the most deadly melanoma subtype
  • If in doubt, get your mole looked at sooner rather than later. When detected in its earliest stages, melanoma is highly curable.