Dr. Carman Giacomantonio
Professor, Department of Pathology, Victoria General Hospital, Halifax, NS
CEO, Melanoma Canada
With skin cancers more prevalent in men, guys need to be extra cautious. Regular checkups and early detection ensure positive outcomes.
Your skin is your largest and most visible organ. That’s why it’s crucial to protect it by monitoring for skin cancer. There are two main categories of skin cancer — melanoma (or pigmented) skin cancers and non-melanoma (non-pigmented) skin cancers which include basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC). Melanoma is the rarest but most deadly form of skin cancer, while BCC is the most common but rarely fatal. cSCC is the second most common skin cancer and while also rarely fatal, it can become very disfiguring if untreated. “The most common risk factor for all three cancer types is excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure over time, though with melanoma there can be some genetic predispositions,” says Dr. Carman Giacomantonio, Professor, Department of Pathology, Victoria General Hospital, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Skin cancer rates slightly higher among men
Men need to be especially vigilant about sun exposure and recognizing the early warning signs. “Of the approximately 8,700 Canadians diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2021, 4,700 were males compared to 4,000 females”, says Falyn Katz, CEO, Melanoma Canada. And while melanoma is one of the rarest forms of skin cancer, it is one of the most common cancer types found in young adults aged 15 to 29 and 30 to 49.1
Most skin cancers are detected by the patients themselves or by a loved one, so we encourage people to do the skin checks every month and talk to their doctor or dermatologist if there’s something of concern. It really can save your life.
While the reasons for higher skin cancer rates among men are not well understood, Dr. Giocomantonio believes that lifestyle, attitude, and culture play a role. “Men are historically considered more risk takers with sun exposure and not too worried about lathering up with sunscreen and protecting themselves,” he says. “They’re also less inclined to visit the doctor to get checked.”
New treatment options available for advanced skin cancer
Treatment for the non-melanoma cancers tends to be quite simple. “Both of these cancers have very low mortality rates and are usually successfully treated by surgical incision,” says Dr. Giocomantonio. “For advanced metastatic melanoma or cSCC where the cancer has spread beyond the primary tumour site, treatment includes targeted immune therapy, one of the earliest clinical success stories,” he says. “The expected success rates from immunotherapy today are over 50 per cent, which is remarkable given that the response rate prior was 10 per cent at best,” he says.
Community important to men on skin cancer journey
A sense of community support is vital to men undergoing the skin cancer journey. Melanoma Canada offers a variety of programs and services, from one-to-one cancer coaching to peer support and bi-monthly support groups. “While no two melanomas or skin cancers are alike, having these conversations with others who understand what you’re going through and realizing you’re not alone is a big part of the mental health and coping aspect,” says Katz. The best way to help men advocate for their health is by encouraging them to stay proactive. “It seems obvious, but the best way to treat melanoma or cSCC is to catch it early and eradicate it effectively,” says Dr. Giocomantonio. “And though less than one per cent of BCC cases become aggressive or potentially metastatic, they too are most effectively dealt with if caught early,” he says. The best way to detect skin cancers early is by regularly monitoring your skin. “Most skin cancers are detected by the patients themselves or by a loved one, so we encourage people to do the skin checks every month and talk to their doctor or dermatologist if there’s something of concern. It really can save your life,” says Katz.
To learn more about skin cancer, visit Melanoma Canada at melanomacanada.ca.
This article was made possible with support from Sanofi Canada Inc.