Here is the bald man’s complete guide by a dermatologist on skin cancer prevention and detection on his scalp.
“Non-melanoma skin cancer is extremely common on the scalp in bald men,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, MD, board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon with a private practice in Omaha, NE.
“Even melanoma is common there, and it is extremely important to guard against sun exposure if and when possible by wearing a hat (preferably brimmed) and sunscreen.”
As a bald man, you may be hesitant to cover your pate when outdoors if this is the style you enjoy.
“Often the skin cancer can start off as a precancerous lesion called an actinic keratosis,” says Dr. Schlessinger.
A head full of actinic keratoses lesions is quite unsightly. Treatment for these red and pink, scaly splotches can leave scars.
But often, there’s no treatment because the bald man either doesn’t realize he has these lesions, or, he sees them but thinks they’re just a natural part of the skin’s aging process.
He may not even mind them that much, depending on how many or big they are.
But Dr. Schlessinger explains, “Over time it can progress to be a more significant issue, and if left untreated can develop into squamous cell carcinoma [a skin cancer].
“Other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma can also appear on the scalp.”
How often should bald men inspect their scalp?
“Men should inspect their scalp monthly if possible. If there is still hair present that makes it difficult, it’s possible to ask a hair stylist to take a look,” as part of the monthly routine. A partner or parent can also take a look.
Dr. Schlessinger continues, “If there are any suspicious areas they should be evaluated and possibly even biopsied.
“Skin cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma tend to bleed if irritated, so that is a symptom to heed.
“Bald men should always apply sunscreen before leaving their home, but the important thing is that they should reapply every two hours while outside, so don’t leave home without a tube to replenish your sunscreen!
“Even on cloudy days there is sun and that sun will cause cancers if there is no protection.
“Hats are a perfect way to protect, but they should not be ball caps, as that way the ears are left out to the elements.
“A wide brimmed hat should be used to protect, rather than a ball cap for this reason.”
What is the most common cancer on the scalp of bald men?
“Generally, the squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in bald men, but basal cell carcinoma is a close second,” says Dr. Schlessinger.
“Melanoma and a few less common skin cancers can also appear on the scalp.
“We are seeing an epidemic of skin cancer on the scalp as we see more sunlight and less protection from the ozone layer.
“The good news is that sunscreens are improving, but they need to be reapplied each 80 minutes if in water or sweating.
“Additionally, hats such as Tilley Hats, contain sun protection that will last for the entire duration of activities.”
So if you’re part of the bald is beautiful camp, this means taking excellent care of your scalp to always be ahead (no pun intended) of skin cancer. And by the way, these guidelines apply to men with darker skin.
Dr. Schlessinger, founder of LovelySkin.com, has 25+ years of experience treating many skin conditions including melanoma. He’s founder of the Advanced Skin Research Center, a clinical facility that investigates new medications and treatments.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and personal/cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.