What You Need to Know About Melanoma

May 02, 2016

May is National Melanoma Awareness Month and since summer is right around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to talk about the ways you can protect yourself against this dangerous disease. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Out of 13,650 skin cancer deaths per year, melanoma is responsible for more than 10,000. This is why we would like to put a focus on how to prevent it, how to identify it and when it’s time to visit one of our dermatologists.

Fast Facts About Melanoma

  • The average age of diagnosis is 62. However, it is not uncommon to be found in adults younger than 30 and is one of the most common cancers in young women.
  • It is 20 times more likely to be found in Caucasians than in African Americans. 1 in 40 Caucasians will be diagnosed with Melanoma vs. 1 in 1,000 African Americans.
  • Your risk level increases as you age.
  • Melanoma accounts for only 1% of all skin cancers but is responsible for the majority of deaths related to these cancers.
  • Melanoma rates have been rising for the last 30 years.

Detection

  • If melanoma is found in the early stages, the survival rate significantly increases. To learn more about these statistics, please CLICK HERE.
  • Regularly perform skin self-checks using a mirror and follow the ABCDE rule.
    • A – Asymmetry. Does one-half of the birthmark or mole look different than the other?
    • B – Border. Are the edges ragged, irregular, notched or blurred?
    • C – Color. Is the spot multicolored?
    • D – Diameter. Is the spot larger than 6mm (about ¼”)?
    • E – Evolving. Has the mole changed size, shape or color?
    • If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to call our dermatology department at 252.413.6791.

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Other Warning Signs

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Spread of pigment to reach beyond the border of the original mole or birthmark
  • Redness or swelling
  • Change in sensation – itchiness, pain or tenderness

Skin Cancer Gallery – Use this link as a point of reference for examining any irregular spots on your skin. 

Prevention

While not all melanomas are preventable, there are certainly a few things that you can do to reduce your risk. 

  • While we all love the outdoors, it is best to minimize your exposure time to UV rays. Shady areas are the best places to spend your time.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds have been linked to an increased risk of melanoma, especially if started before the age of 30.
  • Sunscreen will help to minimize the effects of UV rays. Always be sure to wear sunscreen when spending time in the sun.
  • Hats and sunglasses can also help keep the sun off of your neck, face and the sensitive skin around your eyes.
  • Make sure to remember you monthly skin self-exams if you have a lot of moles.
  • There is a possibility that you could inherit a gene that makes you more susceptible. If several members of your family have had melanoma, if a family member has had more than one melanoma, or if a family member has had both melanoma and pancreatic cancer, you may want to ask about genetic testing.

Your health is our main focus. If you have any abnormal moles or skin discolorations, please call us today at 252.413.6791 and schedule a screening with our dermatology department. It is important for us to rule out melanoma or to catch it in it’s earliest stages. Summer is approaching so be sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent skin cancer and melanoma by following the rules of prevention discussed. For more information on melanoma or cancer in general, please visit the American Cancer Society at www.Cancer.org.

 

Source: The American Cancer Society