According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most predominant of all types of cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. The most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma and an estimated 8,000 Americans will die from melanoma each year.
Meanwhile, experts predict that every year more than 108,000 Americans will develop melanoma. Melanoma begins in the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin, which makes the skin tan. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black; although, it can also be red or white. Melanoma can spread which makes early detection and treatment essential. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. A dermatologist can remove melanoma when it is detected early in the curable stage so it is important that a dermatologist examines any mole that changes as early as possible. The most important preventable cause of melanoma is excessive sun exposure, including sunburn. Light-skinned individuals are at particular risk. However, having dark skin is not a guarantee that you are immune to developing melanoma. Heredity also plays a part. A person has an increased chance of developing melanoma if a relative or close family member has had melanoma. Atypical moles, which may run in families, and having a large number of moles, can serve as markers for people who have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
WARNING SIGNS OF MELANOMA
- Changes in the surface of a mole.
- Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a new bump.
- Spread of pigment from the border of a mole into surrounding skin.
- Change in sensation including itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
THE ABCDS OF MELANOMA
Asymmetry One half of a mole or marking does not match the other half in size, shape, color, or thickness.
Border Irregularity The edges of a mole or marking are ragged, scalloped, or poorly defined.
Color The pigmentation of a mole or marking is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present in the mole or marking. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance.
Diameter While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller. If you notice a mole different from others, or which changes, itches, bleeds (even if it is small) you should see a dermatologist. (Information retrieved from www.aad.org)
The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests the following guidelines to prevent skin cancer and melanoma:
Seek the shade especially between 10AM and 4PM.
Do not burn.
Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Examine your skin. head-to-toe every month.
See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam.