Bald men need to be aware that, though bald may be beautiful, bald can also be deadly.
Though skin cancer that grows on the scalp comprises only 2 percent of all skin cancers, this is actually a significant percentage, because every year in the U.S., over a million skin cancer cases are diagnosed.
Two percent of one million is 20,000. If you’re balding, that figure is nothing to sneeze at.
“The top of the head (and back of the neck) is something many guys forget about,” says Adam J. Mamelak, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Sanova Dermatology in Austin, TX.
According to the journal Dermatologic Surgery, a certain type of skin cancer of the scalp can be particularly aggressive.
This skin cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma, and about 250,000 Americans are diagnosed with it every year.
A balding and especially completely bald head is highly vulnerable to sun damage.
In fact, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, about 90 percent of visible changes to skin are incorrectly blamed on aging, when in fact, they are caused by sun damage.
So why is that bald head at such notable risk for skin cancer?
First of all, think of all the exposure a bald head or partially bald pate gets to the sun.
Secondly, people tend to subscribe to the idea that if you can’t see something, you don’t need to worry about it.
How many bald or partially bald people even occasionally take a look at their scalp, let alone inspect it on a monthly basis?
Other variables are at play here, because a bald man may be tall; how many family members are taller than him such that they can spot suspicious lesions on top of his head?
If the baldness is the type where sparse strands of hair are combed over the skin surface, the presence of the hair can mask much of the cancerous or precancerous lesions.
And here’s another variable: A man may think he has a full crop of hair on top of his head, when in fact, he has a nice bald spot there, one that exposes skin to significant amounts of sun.
And if you are bald, and you faithfully use sunblock, when’s the last time you actually applied sunblock to your scalp, especially if you have sparse strands of hair over it?
“You can apply sunscreen to the top of the head,” says Dr. Mamelak. “It works well, just like it does on other parts of the body.
Sparse strands of hair, or the infamous “comb-over,” do not protect skin from cancer.
“Wearing a hat, however, is probably the easiest and best way to protect your head from harmful UV rays,” says Dr. Mamelak.
“A hat with a wide brim is even better, as it shades and covers the ears from sun damage.”
Does your primary care physician examine your scalp during annual physicals?
Request that your doctor do so, even if you yourself have been doing so (which should be monthly).
In fact, precancerous lesions can be very faint and hardly visible. Have your partner inspect your balding pate on a monthly basis.