Melanoma Monday is regularly marked on the first Monday of May each year to raise awareness of the dangers of skin cancer. And although it’s no longer May, bringing focus to and awareness of the consequences of UV exposure shouldn’t be limited to just one month of the year.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that starts in the skin’s melanocyte cells. Far less common than other types of skin cancer, such as basal and squamous cell cancers, melanoma accounts for only 1% of skin cancers but causes the majority of skin cancer deaths due to its ability to spread earlier and more quickly to other parts of the body. The good news, however, is that if caught early, melanoma is very treatable with a high survival rate.
Spotting the Signs
Melanoma often begins in the form of a mole on the skin. Although many people have harmless moles, a new dark spot on the skin that changes in size, color and/or shape is a sign that shouldn’t be ignored. The ABCDE rules of spotting melanoma is a useful guide in spotting signs of melanoma. Look for moles that feature Asymmetry, irregular Borders, different shades of Color, a large Diameter and a mole that is Evolving in size, shape or color. When in doubt, have the mole checked out by a medical professional.
Prevention is the Key
Elements such as age, gender, complexion and family history can all play a part in a person’s predisposition to developing melanoma. Although these intrinsic factors cannot be altered, the risk of developing skin cancer can be minimized with simple preventive measures, starting with daily and consistent use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Since most cases of melanoma can be attributed to UV exposure, practicing sun smarts is also key, including seeking shade between 10am and 2pm, wearing longer sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat.
Amidst rising rates of melanoma, the American Academy of Dermatology launches yearly campaigns to encourage awareness and sun safety. In the past, the AAD has produced humorous yet informative videos highlighting different aspects of skin cancer prevention, such as having a partner check moles on the back or apply sunscreen in those hard to reach places. This year, the AAD’s cheeky question is: “Do You Use Protection?”
Well, do you? If not, we’ve definitely got an inside track for that.