Updated: May 14, 2019
Do you get a full skin exam yearly? You should!
Melanoma is on the rise and has steadily been on the rise in the last century. In the 1950s the odds of getting melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, was 1 in 1500. Today that has decreased to 1 in 50 and has increased by 54% in the last decade. We know getting in to see the Dermatologist on average is a month wait, so here are some tips on checking your own skin.
First, what is Melanoma? Melanoma is a skin cancer of melanocytes or the pigment-making cells found in the skin. Melanoma, unlike the other two most common types of skin cancer, does have a known genetic mutation. This makes it important to know family history as first-degree family members are at an increased risk of developing melanoma. However, UV exposure is still the most common way to develop this cancer with 86% of melanomas being attributed to UV radiation exposure (aka Sun and/or tanning beds). One study recently conducted in women diagnosed under 30 years old, 97% of then admitted to using tanning beds.
Melanoma can spread to other organs like the lungs, liver, and brain which may require immunotherapy for treatment. Superficial melanoma, or melanoma in situ, is the most common and is curative with proper surgical treatment. The depth of melanoma, or how far down into the deeper layers of the skin it has grown, will determine what treatment will be most appropriate for further care. This is why early detection is key to survival!
Melanoma can affect any skin type also, so just because you don’t “burn” doesn’t mean you cannot get it! However, experiencing at least five sunburns only doubles your chances of developing a melanoma! Melanoma may also appear in areas where the sun doesn't shine regardless of sunburns or sun exposure history.
What can you do at home?
1. Monthly self-skin exams: every month, perform a self-skin exam. Looking at all the areas you can see, using mirrors to check the back of your legs and your back. For watching even closer for changes, take a monthly photo for comparison.
2. Know your ABCDE’s and F's!
A - asymmetry - if one half of a mole doesn’t look like the other half
B - border - if the borders are irregular, jagged or smudged
C - color - if there are multiple colors found in a mole
D - diameter - if the size of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser
E - evolution - if the mole is changing over time
This diva also argues “F” as the vast majority of melanomas are actually not raised but Flat!
3. Pay attention to the UV Index! If the UV index is higher than 3 you really need protection and extra protection if the UV index is higher than 8! So slap on on SPF!
4. Don’t get that gel manicure! Did you know ladies, that the lights used to cure your nail polish is UV? Yes, that means it can increase your risk of skin cancer on your hands including melanoma!
Of course, a trained professional is the best way to tell you if a mole or a lesion is a problem that needs treatment.
For more skin cancer facts, please visit The Skin Cancer Foundation.