Melanoma: Know the Facts, the Risks and How to Protect Yourself


KNOW THE FACTS

Knowing the facts is the first step in the reduction, prevention and early detection of skin cancer and melanoma.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. Melanoma is the most serious form of this cancer and, even though it accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. The cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells – most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds – triggers mutations that cause skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles and some of them actually develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.

If melanoma is caught and treated early, it is almost always curable, However, if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can even be fatal.

· Melanoma is one of the easiest cancers to detect because it is readily visible on the skin.

  • From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form for young people 15-29 years old.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 76,000 new melanoma cases diagnosed and almost 10,000 people are expected to die of the disease in 2014. The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.
  • Of the seven most common cancers in the U.S., melanoma is the only one that is increasing – it rose 1.9 percent annually between 2000 and 2009.
  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes.
  • There are almost 950,000 men and women alive in the U.S. today who have a history of melanoma.
  • Survival with melanoma increased from 49% in the 1950s to 92% between 1996 and 2003.
  • The overall five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 97% in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 62% when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 15% when it metastasizes to other organs.

KNOW THE RISKS

Knowing your risk is another key step in the reduction, prevention and early detection of skin cancer and melanoma.

  • Skin Type : Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2% (1 in 50) for whites, 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics and 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for blacks. Regardless of their skin type, everyone should take precautions to protect themselves from UV exposure.
  • UV Radiation Exposure : Whether it is from the sun or indoor tanning beds, UV radiation exposure is the most frequent and the most preventable risk factor for developing melanoma. Although one or more severe, blistering sunburns during childhood increases the risk, so does ongoing exposure over a lifetime. One bad sunburn before the age of 16 can actually double the lifetime risk of developing melanoma. Living and/or working in sunny climates or at high altitudes adds to this risk. The amount of radiation produced by a tanning bed is similar to the sun and, in some cases, might even be stronger. Studies have found a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma in individuals who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning. Even occasional use of tanning beds can triple the risk.
  • Family History and Genetics : People who have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with melanoma are two to three times more likely to develop the disease than the general population. For those with many close family members with melanoma, the risk increases from 30 to 70 times. Approximately 10% of patients with melanoma have a family history of the disease. Genetic mutations have been found in 10% to 40% of families with a high rate of melanoma. However, many people who inherit a genetic susceptibility never develop melanoma. Individuals with these gene mutations may have 50+ common moles (small growths on the skin that are usually pink, tan or brown and have a distinct edge) or five atypical moles – a condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome. When this syndrome is inherited and there is a family history of melanoma, people are considered to have Familial Multiple Mole and Melanoma or FAMM and they are at very high risk of developing the disease.
  • Other Risk Factors : Other risk factors for melanoma include a weakened or suppressed immune system as a result of having a different type of cancer, the AIDS virus or an organ transplant. In addition, coming into contact with cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, coal tar, creosote, pitch or radium may cause the disease.

KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Protect yourself by making a commitment to being sun-smart and sharing this important information with your friends, family and children!

  • Apply sunscreen before you go out into the sun. Chemical sunscreens need time to be absorbed into the skin to work, so they should be applied about 20 minutes in advance.
  • If you don’t have 20 minutes and need immediate sun protection use zinc oxide . Both zinc and titanium dioxide are minerals that block the sun’s UV rays, so they work faster than chemical sunscreen ingredients.
  • Put the sunscreen on first before other skin products like moisturizer.
  • Use a thick layer of sunscreen: a tablespoon of sunscreen on your face and about two ounces on your body are needed. Otherwise, an SPF 30 sunscreen will only protect as much as an SPF 10.
  • Sprays go on thin. Apply one coat and then a second coat after the first one is dry to be sure you have enough. You can even use more than you think you should to be safe!
  • Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes. Many sunscreens become ineffective when exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time, so it is important to reapply them often. In addition, reapply the sunscreen as soon as you finish swimming and toweling off, or if you are sweating heavily.
  • Use sunscreen daily and all year round. The majority of sun exposure is incidental – meaning it happens when walking to and from your house or from sun shining through windows. In addition, clouds allow up to 80% of UV rays through so they don’t offer much protection. Snow reflects over 5 times the amount of harmful UV radiation as beach sand. Get in the habit of using an SPF 30+, broad-spectrum (which covers UVA/UVB) sunscreen on all the exposed areas of your skin, including on your lips, the tips of your ears, and the back of your hands and neck – EVERY DAY IN EVERY SEASON.
  • Whenever possible, avoid midday sun. Between 10 am to 4 p.m. is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Engage in outdoor activities before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeved shirts and long pants that are tightly woven or photo-protective.
  • Don’t forget your eyes. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays are important to protect your eyes, which can also be susceptible to melanoma.
  • Avoid tanning beds. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE TAN! In fact, there is a direct link between tanning beds and melanoma. Opt for a spray tan, gradual tanning lotion or simply allow your natural skin to shine!

For more information on choosing a sunscreen, visit: https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained

Prepare yourself for year-long protection with this handy checklist!

  • Make an appointment for an annual skin checkup with a dermatologist.

    – Check your insurance coverage for a provider and/or find one here: www.aad.org

    – Put a recurring reminder in your e-calendar to go to the dermatologist each May

  • Print a body map and perform a self exam each month.

    – Get a body map here: Body Mole Map.

    – Learn how here: How to Perform a Self Exam .

    – Put a recurring reminder in your e-calendar to check your skin every month

  • Buy at least 4-5 sunscreens so you will never be caught without one. Check the expiration dates –they can become ineffective over time.

    – Put one in your bathroom for application in the morning.

    – Put one in your car.

    – Put one in your purse/bag.

  • Keep a hat in your car along with a light-weight cotton shirt or other protective covering so you’re always prepared.

    Know Your Skin! https://www.myriad.com/know-your-skin/

    Are You Protected? https://ms360.myriad.com/are-you-protected/