Most people are aware that c Our awareness in the public and in the medical community is increasing about how the sun causes skin damage. There are great sites on the internet with an incredible amount of information about all aspects of melanoma. In this article, I will narrow down that information and answer a few basic questions.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer in melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, in the skin. There are other types of skin cancer that don’t spread, but melanoma is the type that can spread to other areas of the body, or metastasize. It most frequently appears on the trunk in men and on the legs in women, but it can occur anywhere on the body.
Melanoma is the eighth most common cancer in the United States and causes 1-2% of all cancer deaths. The incidence rate has been increasing faster than any other cancer over the past 20 years.
The way to decrease your chance of developing melanoma is to recognize if you are at risk and take measures to decrease that risk or be more vigilant.
Melanoma Risk Factors
The following are risk factors from the highest to lowest risk. Also, the more risk factors you have, the higher your chances are of getting melanoma.
- A mole that is changing
- Atypical nevus syndrome
- Having a mole that is >15cm in diameter and has been present since birth
- White race
- A prior skin cancer
- A close family member with melanoma
- Using a tanning bed ten times a year or more before age 30
- More than 50 moles on your body
- Suppression of the immune system
- The tendency to burn and freckle instead of tan
The best prevention is to recognize any risk factors you may have and take steps to prevent sun damage. Use a sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 15 anytime you go out in the sun. If you have several risk factors you should probably use a sunscreen all the time with an SPF of 30. There are several moisturizers you can buy that already have sunscreen added to them.
If you have a suspicious mole, call us today to schedule a free skin cancer screening.