Melanoma Monday took place earlier this month — May 4 was dedicated to raising awareness about this killer condition. We think it warrants more than just one day for us to be more aware of it — and, hopefully, to be able to prevent it or catch it early.
“Melanoma incidence is on the rise,” said Dr. Angela Lamb, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. While screenings and awareness are helping to catch it faster, it clearly needs more promotion.
It’s still Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and melanoma sits high on our list as a type of cancer we feel empowered about. Why? Because so many cases of melanoma can be prevented.
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Of course, melanoma isn’t the only form of skin cancer out there. In fact, basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Caught early, the cure rate is nearly 100 percent!
Typically, we hear more about that kind of skin cancer, which is why we think it’s time to get the word out about melanoma. Here are 15 things you may not know about melanoma:
- Melanoma is the No. 1 fastest-growing cancer in men and No. 2 in women.
- Even youngins are at risk for melanoma — big time. It is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for those who are 15 to 29.
- About 9,940 people will die of it this year. Lamb added that many people do not know that.
- It’s the most deadly — and preventable — form of cancer. One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports.
- Melanoma can occur in areas of the body not exposed to sun. Think beneath the bathing suit, ladies.
- Melanoma is one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate for men next to liver cancer and esophageal cancer.
- About 86 percent of melanomas are linked to ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from the sun. This means they was likely preventable with healthy SPF practices.
- Have you had more than five sunburns? On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles in that case. Pass the sunscreen!
- You don’t have to be a sun-worshipper to be at risk. "The highest risk for the most common type of melanoma is intermittent (vacationer) sun exposure as opposed to long-term exposure, which increases your risk of both melanoma, but is more directly linked to non-melanoma skin cancer," said Dr. Orit Markowitz, who holds the same role as Lamb at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
- More people are attending screenings for melanoma. Markowitz notes that Melanoma Monday has helped boost awareness and the number of screenings. Other reports say we will have a long way to go to better anticipate and treat it.
- This year, about 73,870 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. alone.
- Melanoma is the seventh most common type of cancer in females.
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How to prevent melanoma, because we can
Sounds all doom and gloom, but it’s not. Our friends at Mount Sinai recommend the following melanoma prevention tips:
- Get an annual checkup: Annual dermatology visits to monitor changes in your skin and your child’s are just as important as annual physicals and regular trips to the dentist. Nearly 50 percent of UV exposure occurs between the ages of 19 and 40.
- Wear sunblock every day — not just during the summer. You should apply an SPF of 30 or more to all exposed skin thoroughly — your body, eyes, lips, ears and feet — every day, year round. Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days.
- Never plan to sunbathe. You might not immediately realize the damage you’re doing by intentionally soaking up the sun, because it takes 10 to 20 years for skin damage to catch up with you, but sun dissolves the collagen and elastin in your skin which keeps it healthy.
- Don't replace sun tanning with tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
- Wear protective clothing. Put on long-sleeved shirts, pants and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses whenever possible.
- Do self-skin checks every month. If you have a lot of brown spots, talk to your dermatologist about total body photography so your doctor can keep a photographic record of your moles and watch closely for any change.
- Follow the ABCDEs: Tell your dermatologist if your moles have: Asymmetry, where one half of the mole is different from the other half; Borders that are irregular, scalloped or poorly defined; Color that varies from one area to another, with shades of tan and brown, black, sometimes white, red or blue; Diameters that are the size of a pencil eraser (6 millimeters) or larger (some melanomas can be smaller, though); and Evolving, when a mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape and color.
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