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By 65, Caucasian men are reportedly twice as likely as women to get melanoma. And not only are they more likely to develop melanoma, but also they often have a more aggressive form of the disease, according to a report from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
"Melanoma is often believed to be 'just another skin cancer,'” says Dr. Svetomir Markovic, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic not involved with the report. "Unfortunately, this is not true."
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma also can form in your eyes and, rarely, in internal organs, such as your intestines.
According to a 2016 report in Nature, "Differences in the expression of a particular gene could explain why men with skin cancer tend to have a lower survival rate than women." The Skin Cancer Foundation agrees, noting that, "Genetics may play a larger role in mortality among men than previously thought."
There could be other reasons contributing the gender difference. "We don’t have a clear explanation for this difference, but what likely plays a significant role is that men are far less engaged in health care than women," says Dr. Markovic. This mean that they sometimes don't see a health care provider until the disease is in advanced stages.
Dr. Markovic also says that men traditionally may have outdoor occupations that expose them to the sun, and they could be less likely to use sunscreen. "Pollution and the diminishing ozone layer in the atmosphere could contribute, as well," adds Dr. Markovic.
Learn more about melanoma
Melanomas also can develop in areas of your body that have little or no exposure to the sun, such as the spaces between your toes and on your palms, soles, scalp or genitals. These are sometimes referred to as hidden melanomas because they occur in places most people wouldn't think to check. When melanoma occurs in people with darker skin, it's more likely to occur in a hidden area.
Hidden melanomas include:
The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can reduce your risk of melanoma.
Factors that may increase your risk of melanoma include:
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