What is melanoma?

 

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  It kills one person every hour in the United States and it is the #1 cancer killer of women age 20 - 29.  In addition, it kills more men in the United States than women.  Many people are under the impression that skin cancer is an older person disease, but the truth is melanoma has very much become a young person disease.  Melanoma is curable if caught early and preventable, but due to a lack of knowledge in the general public, 24 people die everyday in the U.S.

 

 

Why is melanoma so dangerous?

 

Melanoma starts out as a lesion or a mole on your skin which is easy to ignore.  It does not have any symptoms - it typically doesn't hurt or itch.  The danger is that while the lesion just appears to be sitting there on the skin, the melanoma cells are actually frantically trying to get through the layers of skin and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the melanoma aggresively spreads throughout the body and likes to form tumors in the lungs, liver, brain and bones among other places.

 

How can someone detect it early?

 

The best way to detect it early is to do frequent skin self-exams and evaluate any concerning spots using the ABCDE's of early detection.  This guideline can help you determine if you need to go to a dermatologist for an exam.  The best rule of thumb is "when in doubt, get it checked out!"  Don't wait until a spot has all of the catgories of early detection.  The key is to go to the dermatologist as soon as a spot has any one the ABCDE catergories.

 

How can you reduce the risk?

Unlike most cancers, steps can be taken to reduce your risk of getting melanoma.  Be aware of when the sun’s rays are the strongest and avoid those hours or protect your skin with a minimum spf 30 sunscreen. Be sure to reapply the sunscreen often.   In addition to applying sunscreen, wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses when out in the sun.   Avoid using tanning beds which are 12x stronger than the sun.  Also, perform regular skin self-exams to address any questionable spots right away.

For more information visit the American Cancer society's website:

 

American Cancer Society Melanoma Information

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