Melanoma

  • September 1, 2017

Did You Know?

There are many types of skin cancer with Melanoma being the deadliest form, with approximately 200,000 cases being diagnosed each year.

  • Melanoma is the third most common cancer among women ages 20 – 39.
  • There has been a 2000% increase in melanoma incidences since 1930.
  • There are over one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year, outnumbering the total number of other cancers combined.

 Melanoma occurs when the pigment producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. Melanoma is not just skin cancer – it can develop anywhere on the body – eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, etc. and can develop on parts of the body that aren’t exposed to the sun. It may appear as a dark spot, a wound that doesn’t heal, a spot that grows, changes shapes and bleeds.

There are things that can be done to prevent Melanoma that can cut the risks of you getting this deadly cancer.

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Causes of Melanoma

While some melanomas start on areas in the body that aren’t exposed to sunlight, (bottom of feet, groin) it is believed that nearly 90% of melanomas are caused from sunlight and UV light. It takes only one blistering sunburn to more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life and nearly half of melanoma cases are diagnosed in patients between 55 and 74. It’s important to note that exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%. Caucasians have a greater risk of developing skin cancer, and the risk increases for people with blond or red hair, blue or green eyes or skin that burns and freckles easily.

Types of Melanoma

There are different types of melanoma - these include:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma
  • Nodular melanoma
  • Acral-lentiginous melanoma
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma
  • Amelanotic and desmoplastic melanomas
  • Ocular melanoma

How to Tell the Difference Between Melanoma and Other Forms of Skin Cancer

The ABCDE method may help determine if an abnormal growth may be melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: The mole is irregular in shape.
  • Border: The border of the mole is not smooth, it’s irregular or notched.
  • Color: The mole has dark spots or uneven shading.
  • Diameter: The size of the growth is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving or Elevation: The growth is changing in shape, texture or size.

A visit to the doctor is the only way to find out whether a mole or a growth is melanoma. And since skin cancer symptoms vary and not all skin cancers develop from moles it is important to discuss new or unusual skin growths with your doctor.

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Melanoma Prevention Facts

  • Start off your protection by using sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days - the clouds let most of the UV light pass through. Make sure your sunscreen covers your ears and neckline up to your hairline. And don’t forget to reapply sunscreen frequently on humid days and when you’ll be swimming or sweating.
  • You can help prevent melanoma by seeking shade and avoiding direct sunlight between 10am – 4pm. The shorter the shadow you cast, the greater your sun exposure risk.
  • It also helps to wear protective clothing when outside, long sleeved shirts and pants, and to use UV-blocking sunglasses to reduce your risk of eye damage. Look for SPF numbers on labels for beach umbrellas, tents and hats to reduce your risk of sun damage.
  • And top it off by wearing a wide brimmed hat with at least a four-inch brim all the way around. Nope, a baseball cap worn backwards doesn’t count.
  • Using sunscreen in the winter is necessary because the snow reflects radiation as well and can cause a nasty burn.
  • It’s important to avoid tanning salons, especially at a young age, 15 minutes in a tanning salon is equal to a whole day’s exposure at the beach.
  • Certain prescription drugs can increase sun sensitivity, check with your pharmacist to find out if your prescriptions can help you burn easier.
  • Insect repellents, especially those containing DEET can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen lotion.
  • Examine your skin for changing blemishes and have your spouse or partner check parts of your body you can’t see. Get examined by a physician once a year.
  • Keep children under six months of age out of the sun and they should have very little direct exposure to the sun. And examine children’s skin, just as you would check your own.

Now that you’ve learned a bit about Melanoma you can take the steps necessary to reduce your risk of getting this form of skin cancer, stay healthy and continue to enjoy being outdoors!

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