May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and it’s our opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma, the importance of early detection, and the many ways to practice sun safety. Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer because it can be fatal, but the majority of melanomas are totally preventable.
Melanomas come from the skin’s pigment cells that produce skin color. These cells can be found anywhere we have skin, so melanoma can develop anywhere we have skin, even where the sun doesn’t shine. But it IS most common on areas of most sun-exposure or sun-damaged skin. When detected early, melanoma can be very treatable.
Examine your skin at home with a monthly skin check in addition to seeing us every year! Most melanomas start as a new spot on the skin, but they can develop in a mole you already have too. For women, the most common location is the leg, and for men, it is the back. Look for anything new, changing or that stands out to you like an “Ugly Duckling.” A spot that stands out from the rest is an “ugly duckling” and always needs to be checked by an experienced provider. Other warning signs include bleeding, scabbing, or not healing without a reason.
Another helpful way to remember what to look for are the “ABCDE’s of melanoma:”
Borders that are irregular or changing from what they used to look like
Color that is changing or multicolored, particularly mixtures of brown, black or red
Diameter that is growing or different than most of your other spots
Evolution (a spot is evolving means it is changing over time in any way)
One person in the US dies of melanoma every hour. It is also the #1 most diagnosed cancer in women age 25 to 29. So if 90% of melanomas are caused by UV exposure (ie sun), then we need to do better! 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure happens after age 18, so we are not off the hook by any means. We need to protect our children (and teens!) because just having one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can almost double a person’s chance of developing melanoma. BUT you also need to remember yourself before helping others- protect your skin so you can keep your health AND be a role model for your children, spouse, friends! It has been proven that children will develop the good habits they are exposed to.
There are lots of options to practice sun safety! Seek shade; wear a hat (they’re so in again!); sunglasses (your eyes need protection from the UV rays too and who wants crow’s feet?); sun protective clothing- if you haven’t looked at SPF clothing lately you would be surprised how many companies are making it and all the awesome options; moisturizers and makeup with sunscreen in them. We recommend broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF over 30, REAPPLIED every 2-3 hours. There are many effective and safe products, never be afraid to ask us for recommendations or to ask questions.
Monitor your skin and protect yourself from damage. Keep yourself healthy for you and for your family!