CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Depending on their age, men are anywhere from two to three times more likely than women to develop melanoma.
Research shows that by age 65, Caucasian men have double the risk of women for developing melanoma. Often, they develop a more aggressive form of the disease.
Melanoma accounts for just 1 percent of skin cancer cases but is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Channel 9’s chief meteorologist, Steve Udelson, has battled skin cancer five times himself and is on a mission to get people to protect their skin.
A recent summer morning found Bryant Gregory on a golf course at Tega Cay.
Gregory prefers to hit the links early, before the sun gets too strong.
He's fair-skinned, with red hair, and has always been the outdoorsy type.
He never worried about what all of that outdoor time was doing to his skin, until 10 years ago.
He was 46, and had taken his 5-year-old daughter to the dermatologist for her own skin issues.
“The dermatologist, while I was there noticed something on my arm while I was holding my daughter in my lap. She said, ‘Your daughter's fine but I'm worried about your arm,” Gregory recalled.
Manny Arroyo, who grew up in Puerto Rico, also spent much of his childhood outdoors.
“Did you take advantage of sunscreen?” asked Steve Udelson.
“No, growing up in the '70's, you didn't,” Arroyo replied. “You used baby oil and iodine to look cool. There's the old saying, 'If I only knew then what I know now.'”
What started as melanoma on Arroyo’s arm spread to his lymph nodes.
He's still undergoing treatment at Charlotte’s Levine Cancer Institute.
“The bad thing about cancer is not what it does to you, it's what it does to your family and your loved ones,” he said.
An increasing number of families are facing melanoma battles.
Melanoma rates have gone up in the past 30 years in the U.S.
The American Cancer Society predicts more than 91,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018.
The overwhelming majority of them – 55,150 – will be in men.
In Fort Mill, S.C., dermatologist Rebecca Smith sees that gender difference among her own patients.
“We know the incidence of melanoma in men is greater than the incidence of melanoma in women. And it's probably due to the use of sun protection. Women are generally better about using sun protection, and generally better about going for early detection, early screening,” she explained.
Channel 9 chief meteorologist Steve Udelson himself is proof of that.
“The first time I got skin cancer, I had something I was picking at for a year, and I just didn't want to go. And my wife said, 'You have got to get this checked out,'” Udelson recalled.
“Most of the time when I see a man that has a skin cancer, they were encouraged to come by a family member their wife, their daughter,” Dr. Smith said.
Gregory and Arroyo both say they wish they could have a conversation with their 18-year-old selves. What would they say?
“I’d definitely say, "Put sunscreen on. It's more important than you think.' Who would have thought something you could buy at a drugstore could save your life years later?” Arroyo said.
He still enjoys outdoor activities, like fishing and going to the beach. The difference is that now he participates with sunscreen and protective clothing.
“Face mask or neck gator at the beach, long-sleeved shirts, long bathing suit. I put sunblock on five times in eight hours!” he explained.
Bryant makes sure to get his golf in before the sun gets too high. And even an early morning round involves a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
“It’s always in the back of my mind,” he said. “I have to put the sunscreen on, sometimes more than once or twice.”
The warning signs for melanoma include a sore that won't heal, a new spot on the skin, or one that changes size, shape or color.
Among the most important things you can do to protect yourself:
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