Melanoma only accounts for about 5% of all skin cancers, but causes most skin cancer related deaths. If detected in its earliest stages, it is treatable and even curable.
In men, Melanoma is generally found between the shoulders and the hips, or on the head and neck. In women, it often develops on the lower legs.
Your chance of developing Melanoma USED to increase with age. Now, in the days of indoor tannnig salons, there are more reported cases of Melanoma in people UNDER age 30 than ever before!
65,000 new cases of Melanoma are reported each year, with 11,000 of those unfortunately resulting in death.
Ultraviolet rays are the cause of this skin cancer. Outdoor from the sun and indoor from tanning beds are the direct link. ONE severe sunburn in your FIRST 15 years of life can more than DOUBLE your risk of developing skin cancer. This is why it is crucial for children to always be protected with sunscreen when outdoors.
Bills are in the process of trying to be passed now to change the age of children who are allowed to tan in indoor tannnig salons from 14 to 18 years of age. I agree and I hope this is done. I don't believe people TRULY appreciate the danger of tanning - outside or indoor!
A family history of Melanoma, especially in a first degree relative, puts you at a much higher risk for developing Melanoma. You need to be sure you go to a dermatologist at least once a year AND advise your dr of your family history so that your screening is done according to that history.
I wish I knew THEN what I know NOW. I did my years of indoor tanning when they first were the new craze with NO idea that doing so could increase MY PERSONAL RISK of getting Melanoma by up to 70%! Add that to my years of outdoor sunburns and sun poisoning once and I had pushed my way up to a 100% chance easily, especially because my Grandmother had Melanoma! No one told me. No one warned me.
If I knew I was mapping out the future of my health, I might have thought twice. If I knew I would have to go to the dermatologist every six months for exams, often having biopsies done and pre-cancerous lesions removed. Holding my breath while waiting for every pathology report to come back, I would NOT have burnt myself to a crisp attemptnig to "look good!"
At my last dermatology appt. my dr told me how Melanoma is now a regular diagnosis, as opposed to a rare one many years ago. She shared with me how she had just diagnosed a 22 year old girl, a day earlier with a pretty large Melanoma. She was appalled at how the younger patients did not understand the severity of such a diagnosis. She explained that girl was more concerned with what kind of scar she would be left with and how soon until she could go in the sun again, and not even grasping the concept that she could die as a result of this disease!
After watching my Grandmother have surgery after surgery to have the Melanoma removed from her leg, because there was no other treatment options at that time, and watching her suffer long recoveries, only to have it spread to her brain, was MY wake up call. Watching the aftermath of her brain surgery, only for it to recur again weeks later in several more areas of her brain, and then watch the agony and suffering in her last few weeks of life was more than enough to MAKE ME RETHINK tanning for vanity reasons!
I wish I had known ALL of this when I was YOUNG and laying in the sun with baby oil and thinking that the darker you got the hotter you looked. I wish I knew BEFORE I had spent years indoor tanning - PAYING my hard earned money to increase my cancer risk time and time again!! I didn't know, but now I do. So I am passing along this information to you so you ALSO know.
Sun exposure is good in small doses. Vitamin D is necessary as well. Burning or tanning the skin is not healthy. It has side effects. Long term effects as well.
KNOW your family history regarding skin cancer - from Melanoma to Squamous Cell and Basal Cell. Ask because it's important and very helpful for your dermatologist.
Free skin cancer screenings are done all over the country during the month of May simply to promote awareness. If you don't have insurance, that is no excuse. Google "free skin cancer screenings 2012" and you will find a list that will shock you from drs. offices to chain drug stores providing screenings to make sure skin cancer is caught early.
Do your own skin check. Wear sunscreen. Wear a hat, sunglasses and limit exposure during the peak hours. Learn your family history. Teach your children and people around you to be "sun smart."
It's never too late to create better habits. What you did to your skin in the past IS the past. Now you have to WATCH and be sure nothing pops up as a result and if it does, get to a dr early!
I am hoping that this information will catch a cancer early in someone, have someone make a dermatology appt. or even save a life. Detection is the most important tool in treating this early.
* In honor of my Grandmother, Natalie Chodack, who passed away way too young from this horrible disease and whom I miss dearly. Her battle with Melanoma taught me many things and guided me into the areas of life where I have become an advocate to help others.