One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Here’s what you should know–and do–to reduce your risk.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, kicking off with Melanoma Monday on May 2. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with 144,860 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year. It often develops from an existing mole or appears as a new dark spot on the skin.
Anyone can get melanoma. Men over the age of 50, with many years of sun exposure, are at higher risk than other age groups. “My dad died of melanoma at 69. He was an avid tennis player who was outdoors, on the court, practically every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Geri Brin, Founder of FabOverFifty. “He died months after diagnosis. If only we know then what we know now, about this deadly disease and how to prevent it.”
What you must do
The first step in protecting against melanoma, for both you and your family, is prevention and early detection. It is crucial to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. It’s important to regularly check your skin for new moles and growths. If you see anything changing, itching or bleeding, you should see a board-certified dermatologist.
You can identify the warning signs of melanoma with the following A, B, C, D, E’ s:
One half of the mole is noticeably unlike the other half.
The mole has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
The colors of the growth Is varied from one area to another; it may have shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from other moles on your body or is changing in size, shape or color.
Why early detection is key
When left untreated, melanomas can spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes. When detected in its earliest stages, however, it is highly treatable. “The average five-year survival rate for an individual whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent,” according to AAD. If it spreads to nearby lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate goes down to 63 percent. If it spreads to distant organs and lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is only 17 percent.
How is melanoma treated?
Melanoma is treated through surgical excision. Your dermatologist will decide how much skin around the melanoma will need to be removed. Melanomas in later stages can require additional cancer treatments and therapies.
Get your skin checked
As part of its “Looking Good in 2016” campaign, the American Academy of Dermatology wants to make sure skin cancer prevention is a healthcare priority and is offering free SPOTme® Skin Cancer screenings all over the country.
Find out where you can have a free skin cancer screening here.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of American Academy of Dermatology. The opinions and text are all mine.