By Susan Evans, MD
Bald is beautiful, and that is not just a slogan anymore. Many men are opting to throw away the hair spraypaint, creams, ointments, and procedures that help stimulate hair growth and just accept this natural phase of life. Baldness happens, and it can happen at any age. Enjoy your new carefree hair-free hairstyle, but don’t forget to take necessary precautions to protect your beautiful skin.
Hereditary factors and lifestyle can both attribute to balding. If you are prone to hereditary baldness there are very few things you can do to prevent it from happening. If you live a healthy lifestyle with minimal stress you may be able to prevent or delay lifestyle baldness from occurring. However, once baldness has started, your options are only to camouflage it, have plastic surgery (hair transplants), or simply accept your new look with a sexy, sleek head.
Having a bald head means having an easy hairstyle to care for. However, it doesn’t mean that your new look is completely carefree. You need to protect your head from the damaging effects of the sun. Hair can help protect your head from the sun’s rays, but once your scalp is exposed it is at the same risk as the rest of your skin.
Sun damage can cause actinic keratosis (pre-cancerous growth) and skin cancer, so it is important to use sun block and hats anytime your head will be exposed to the sun for any extended length of time. Ten minutes of fresh air and direct sunshine is good medicine for everyone, but if you are going to be sitting out at a ball game for a few hours then don’t forget to wear your baseball cap!
Actinic Keratosis is considered to be the very earliest stage of skin cancer and it can result from years of repeated exposure to the sun. The symptoms of actinic keratosis include dry, rough, and scaly patches on your scalp. While it is easy to prevent by simply wearing sun block and/or hats when it is appropriate, once you develop pre-cancer you will need close dermatologic supervision to monitor its progress. Actinic keratosis has the capability of turning into a fatal skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
There are 3 types of skin cancer, none of which can be ignored. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and it is the easiest to detect and treat. A possible sign of basal cell carcinoma are small flesh colored bumps on your head. Squamous cell carcinoma typically looks red and patchy. Malignant melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer but also the most dangerous. Itchy, hard moles that change in appearance or bleed are a sign that melanoma is present.
Going bald can be a sexy change in your lifestyle. Protecting your scalp from the sun by avoiding repeated long term exposure, wearing sun block, and sporting hats can help keep your head looking sexy and keep you cancer free.
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