Almost all basal and squamous cell cancers and the vast majority of melanomas can be linked to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.
UV rays destroys the DNA in skin cells, leading to genetic defects. These defects tells the abnormal skin cells to multiply rapidly and develop malignant tumors.
Some physical traits make this cascade of events more likely. People with light skin, for instance, produce less melanin, a pigment that can block out some (but not all) UV rays.
Surprise: Men are more vulnerable to skin cancer than women
This can translate into racial or ethnic disparities in skin cancer risk. Yet while Caucasians are most vulnerable, people of color can also get skin cancer.
What’s more, they may detect it at a more advanced stage, when it is more difficult to treat.
Whether your odds of developing skin cancer are high or low, the smart move is to minimize any risks you can control and stick to regular dermatologist visits and skin self-exams.
Here’s a juggle-down on the most common — and a few uncommon — causes of skin cancer.
1. Men Are More Vulnerable Than Women
While women, especially young ones, have shown a troubling increase in skin cancer incidence rates over the past several decades, men are still more at risk.[Read: FDA Recalls Common Heart Drug Over Cancer Concerns]
Statistics show that men are more likely than women to have basal and squamous cell cancers of the skin.
Overall, men are also more likely to get melanoma than women. Before age 50, incidence is higher for women; after 50, it is higher for men. (1)
The incidence of melanoma in men age 80 and older is three times higher than it is for women of the same age. (2)
One reason may be that men know less about skin cancer than women, and so are less likely to take protective measures, such as using sunscreen.
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016 found that while 76 percent of the women interviewed agreed that “There is no such thing as a healthy tan,” only 56 percent of the men did.
Researchers also believe that men’s skin may be more susceptible to UV damage than women’s because it’s thicker, with less fat underneath, and contains more collagen and elastin.
Studies have found that men’s skin reacts more intensely to UV rays than women’s.