May is Melanoma Awareness Month
We Floridians love the sun! There is nothing better than stepping outside and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. It makes us happy when sunlight is absorbed through your skin and it promotes vitamin D and serotonin production. However, there is a dark side to the sun…and that’s skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and has been on the rise the past few decades. It is estimated that there will be almost 100,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States this year. May is Melanoma Awareness Month and we’re here to shed some light on the topic.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from the pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes. Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body. It is more commonly found on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, arms, and legs, but can also occur on the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet, and even your nails.
Who is at Risk?
Melanoma is more than 20x more common in Caucasians than minorities, and those with darker skin. The average age of those most commonly diagnosed with melanoma is 65, but it isn’t uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women.
Other risk factors include:
- Having fair skin, light eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair.
- Having a history of blistering sunburns.
- Being exposed to sunlight or tanning beds.
- Having a family history of melanoma.
- Having many moles or unusual-looking moles.
- Having a weakened immune system.
What are the Signs?
Melanoma typically presents as a new or changing mole on the skin. It may be black or brown, but it can also be pink, red, or white. The mole may be asymmetrical, have irregular borders, be larger than a pencil eraser, or have different colors within the same mole. Melanoma can also cause symptoms such as itching, bleeding, or crusting. When performing your monthly skin check, be on the lookout for:
- A mole that changes in color, size, or how it feels, or a very large mole.
- A mole that bleeds.
- A large brownish spot with darker specks.
- A lesion with irregular borders.
- A mole or lesion with parts that appear red, white, blue, pink, or bluish-black.
- A mole that’s asymmetrical.
- A painful lesion that burns or itches.
- Dark spots on the soles of your feet, palms, fingertips, toes, or the lining of your mouth, nose, vagina, or anus.
If you notice any of the above, suspicious moles or skin lesions, it is important to see a dermatology provider for evaluation as soon as possible. Your provider will perform a thorough examination and may perform a skin biopsy on any concerning spots, moles, or lesions. If melanoma is diagnosed, your provider will discuss treatment options, and they may differ depending on the stage of the cancer. Early-stage melanoma may be treated with surgical removal of the lesion, while more advanced melanoma may require additional treatments such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy.
How can I Reduce my Risk?
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing melanoma:
- Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and hats, when outdoors.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours.
- Avoid tanning beds, as they can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Perform regular self-examinations of your skin to check for new or changing moles.
- See a dermatologist for a skin examination at least once a year.
Getting fresh air, soaking up the sun, and enjoying time outdoors is good for our mental and physical health and part of the Florida lifestyle.. Knowing how to stay safe in the sun and protect your skin is a must. This May, while you’re enjoying the warm, sunlit weekends, be sure to avoid the strongest sun, use your SPF, and stay smart. By taking steps to protect your skin from sun damage and performing regular self-examinations, you can reduce your risk of developing melanoma.