Did you know Melanoma is the only cancer that we can actually see on the surface of our skin? Despite this fact, many people do not take time to evaluate unusual or changing spots on their body. To encourage early detection, May has been designated as National Melanoma Detection and Prevention Month.
Melanoma is a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, but when detected early, it is highly curable. Melanoma is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells, sometimes without warning, sometimes developing on an existing mole.
The leading cause of Melanoma is excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning devices. While the cancer can strike anyone, people with pale skin, red or blonde hair, and blue or green eyes are at increased risk.
The best way to prevent Melanoma is to avoid sun exposure and tanning beds. Even on cloudy days, wear a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, and reapply every 2 hours. Protect your skin by wearing a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses, especially between 10am and 2pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Use caution near water, snow, and sand, because they reflect the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn. Even when using a sunless tanner, continue to wear sunscreen.
The American Academy of Dermatology urges everyone to examine their skin regularly. This means looking over your entire body, including your back, scalp, palms, soles, and even between your toes. If you notice any mole that is different from others, which changes, itches, or bleeds, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
The warning signs of Melanoma are easy to remember using the ABCDE rule:
Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color: The pigment is not uniform, with possible shades of tan, brown, black, red, or white.
Diameter: Usually larger than 6mm, but may be smaller.
Evolving: The mole or skin lesion is changing in size, shape, or color.