Do bald people have higher skin cancer risk?

Did you know that people with bald heads are at higher risk of skin cancer?

A 2017 study found that male-pattern baldness was significantly associated with increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) on the head and neck.

Bald heads are exposed to more of the sun’s UV radiation, which is the major cause of non-melanoma skin cancers like SCC and BCC.

While people with hair can definitely develop skin cancers on the scalp, they receive some protection from their hair physically blocking the sun’s rays. In bald people, this physical block is missing, so the scalp and neck are directly exposed to more UV radiation.

If you have a partially or totally bald head (or thinning hair), here are some ways you can protect yourself.

Always wear a hat outdoors

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is best because it will also protect your neck and ears – two major sites for non-melanoma skin cancers to develop.

Apply sunscreen to your scalp, neck and ears

When you apply your sunscreen every day, don’t forget your neck, scalp, and your ears (especially the tips). Choose an SPF50+, broad-spectrum sunscreen and don’t forget to re-apply every two hours. It’s best to use a product designed for the face (rather than the body) as the skin on your scalp can be sensitive.

Be vigilant

Keep an eye on your scalp and neck for any new or changing spots, and anything that looks different to your other lesions. Make sure you get a professional skin cancer check at least once a year to catch anything early, as early detection provides the best chance of successful treatment.

Written by National Skin Cancer Centres