As the weather is warming up, we are all eager to get out and play in the sun. This makes the month of May a perfect time to increase awareness of Melanoma. May is National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The main risk factor for developing skin cancer is exposure to sunlight or UV radiation.
The National Cancer Institute estimates 2013 will hold 76,690 new cases of melanoma and 9,480 deaths will be attributed to the disease. Although melanoma accounts for only 5% of all skin cancers, it is the most deadly resulting in 75% of deaths.
The good news is you can have an active role in effectively protecting yourself and loved ones from this deadly disease. Prevention and early detection is key! When detected early, before spreading to lymph nodes or other organs, the 5-year overall survival rate for melanoma patients is 98%. This rate falls to 62% when disease has spread to the lymph nodes and 15% when metastasis has occurred to distant organs.
Here are some tips to share with family and friends:
- Protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays. Wear clothing to protect as much skin possible, including long sleeves, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Limit direct sun exposure during midday, seeking areas of shade. UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
- Wear “broad-spectrum” sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30
- Apply sunscreen liberally. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or exercising
- Wear sunscreen year round, even on cloudy days
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps
- Perform monthly head to toe self-exams in front of a full-length mirror, in a well-lit room. A handheld mirror is helpful to view areas that are hard to see. Take note of any moles, marks or freckles on your skin so you will be able to notice any changes
- Be sure to see your doctor or dermatologist yearly for a full body skin exam.
Think “ABCDE” to remind yourself what to look for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesn’t match the other.
- Border: Irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
- Color: Areas of uneven coloring including: black, brown, tan, white, gray, red, pink or blue
- Diameter: There’s a change in size
- Evolving: The mole has changed over a few weeks or months