Protect Your Skin from Melanoma

Recognizing Melanoma / Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, May 2011

Skin Protection and Melanoma

As the temperatures turn warmer with the approaching summer season, it’s an excellent time to think about protecting yourself and your loved ones from melanoma, the most serious cancer of the skin. After all, our skin is our largest organ and is vital in protecting our bodies from the outside world. While only 4 percent of skin cancers are diagnosed as melanoma (approximately 70,000 new cases each year), it results in nearly 80 percent of all deaths caused by skin cancer.

Early detection is the key to fighting melanoma. Individuals with the following characteristics are often at higher risk for this disease:

  • Fair skin and light eyes
  • Experienced a severe sunburn as a child or teenager
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light through use of tanning beds or sunbathing
  • History of other family members with the disease
  • More than 50 ordinary moles on the body, especially if edges are irregular
  • Weak immune system due to certain cancers, medications taken after organ transplants or for Hodgkin’s disease, or those diagnosed with HIV

According to medical professionals, the cure rate for all skin cancers could be 100 percent if detected before spreading. Melanoma is of particular concern since it can spread quickly through the lymph or circulatory system to other areas in the body. Regularly check for new skin growths, changes in moles, sores that are not healing or any other skin abnormalities. If a concern is detected, contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to have the area checked. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to have your skin checked at least once a year around your birthday.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, protecting your skin from sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma. Lower your risk of skin cancer by following these easy steps when working or playing outdoors:

  • Liberally apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30; make sure it protects against UVA and UVB rays; reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating – even if it is cloudy outside
  • Take a break in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest, or wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, a hat and sunglasses
  • Be extra cautious of sunburn near water, snow and sand as these conditions reflect and intensify the sun’s damaging rays

If you, or someone you know, have been diagnosed with melanoma, how was it detected? What was the treatment process? – Scott Delisi, Ameritas Group