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Melanoma Awareness: How to Identify Melanoma and Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology recognizes May 3rd 2021 as Melanoma Monday. It is a day to raise awareness about malignant melanoma, a potentially deadly type of skin cancer. It also serves as a day to encourage people to perform skin exams and learn the warning signs of melanoma.

The number of individuals diagnosed with melanoma has been increasing rapidly in recent years. According to the American Cancer Society, one American dies every hour of melanoma and an estimated 106,000 cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2021. Knowing about melanoma and the warning signs can save your life and sharing what you know can save others!

Malignant melanomas arise from skin growths known as nevi, or “moles” as they are more commonly known. They may arise from an existing mole or may appear suddenly. Melanomas are most commonly found on sun exposed areas such as face, scalp, upper back and legs but may also develop in the eyes, inside the mouth or nose and under the fingernails. Anyone- no matter your skin tone- can develop melanoma. Early detection is crucial, as melanoma has a 98% 5 year survival rate if caught in the early stages*.

ABCDE’s of Identifying Melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: is the mole symmetrical? Imaging folding the mole in half. If the two sides do not match it is asymmetrical and could be concerning
  • Border: does the border or edge of the mole look even and smooth? Jagged or sharp edges could be a warning sign
  • Color: is the mole one uniform color? Several colors or shades of a color within the mole could be a warning sign
  • Diameter: how big is the mole? Melanomas often have a diameter of 6mm (size of a pencil eraser) or more when diagnosed, but they can be smaller
  • Evolving: has the mole changed in shape, size or color? Have you noticed any other changes such as bleeding, itching or drainage?

Helpful Hints

  • Wear a hat with a 4-inch-wide brim. Traditional baseball style hats do little to protect the ears and nose.
  • Sunglasses with UVA/UVB coating will help protect your eyes from harmful rays.
  • Protective clothing is very helpful for active adults and children. There are many different options available.
  • Don’t forget to protect your lips.
  • Try to avoid the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., when the sun is the strongest
  • Wear sunscreen year-round, as clouds do little to cut down on UV rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing melanoma by 20%*!
  • Get a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 for daily wear. Go for higher SPF, preferably 50 SPF, when outdoors for prolonged periods of time, such as gardening, exercising, or swimming. Don’t forget to reapply every 1-2 hours and immediately after toweling off after swimming.
  • Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB sunlight.
  • Children’s skin, prior to age 10, if far more susceptible to cancer causing sun damage. Protecting a child’s skin is vital to helping reduce the incidence of malignant melanoma in the future.

Helpful hints provided by Sarah Kincaid, PA-C,Christie Clinic Department of Dermatology.

Christie Clinic Dermatology provides complete skin examinations to identify and treat precancerous or malignant lesions. Schedule an appointment online today.

*According to the American Academy of Dermatology