Harvard Men's Health Watch

Sunscreen confusion

Men may not be doing all they need to protect themselves from sun damage and skin cancer.

sunscreen- man- sunblock
Image: JupiterImages/Thinkstock

Proper protection against skin cancer continues to be relevant once a man hits age 65. "Unfortunately, ultraviolet [UV] exposure and damage is cumulative over our lifetimes," says Dr. Joseph Merola, a dermatologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "There is no safe age at which we can put down the sunscreen or stop thinking about sun protection."

Even if men are aware of the dangers of sun exposure, new research shows most do not follow basic guidelines. A study published June 17, 2015, in JAMA Dermatology found that only 14.3% of men surveyed reported they regularly use sunscreen. The study also found that men were more likely than women to never use sunscreen—43.8% of men compared with 27% of women—and perhaps most telling, only 7% knew what to look for on a sunscreen label.

"One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point, and the best way to reduce your risk is to protect yourself from UV exposure," says Dr. Merola. "But you need to know what to do and then follow that routine faithfully."

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