Melanoma Monday: Melanoma Prevention 101
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The first Monday of May marks Melanoma Monday, a day dedicated to raising melanoma awareness. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, as it has the ability to spread to other parts of the body. This article tells you the nature of melanoma, as well as how to prevent and detect the cancer.
You can also skip to the end of this post for pictures of possible melanoma from our database.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. While not the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma is the deadliest of skin cancers. According to the World Health Organization, more than 65,000 people die from melanoma every year, of which nearly 10,000 are American.
Though the specter of melanoma is certainly frightening, fret not! 95% of melanomas are preventable. If detected early, melanoma is also highly treatable. Here are a few tips for preventing melanoma and how to detect the condition in its early stages.
Melanoma prevention is a all-round project. Following these tips can lower your risk of getting melanoma:
1. Limit exposure to UV radiation. This is perhaps the most important preventative measure. Since exposure to UV radiation causes melanoma, limiting your exposure to UV radiation from the sun significantly reduces your risk of getting melanoma. Be sure to also avoid UV radiation from other sources, like tanning beds and lamps.
2. Apply sunscreen. When exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is unavoidable, be sure to apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and wear protective clothes. Learn more about how to choose the right sunscreen for you here.
3. Seek shade. Stay in the shade, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm when the sun is brightest.
4. Avoid sunburns. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one sunburn can double one’s chances of getting melanoma. For this reason, avoiding sunburns significantly reduces one’s risk of getting melanoma.
Since melanoma is highly treatable if detected early, knowing the warning signs of melanoma is of paramount importance. Below are the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma. If you see one or more of these signs, make an appointment with a physician/dermatologist immediately.
A = Asymmetrical Shape — Look for moles that are asymmetrical: one half is unlike the other half.
B = Border — Look for moles that have an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = Color — While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan, melanoma moles lack uniformity in color.
D = Diameter — Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving — Look for moles that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
To read more about how early detection can save your life, read Ricardo’s story and learn how First Derm saved his life.
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Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, Alumni UC Berkeley. My PhD thesis is on Digital Health and I published 5 peer review scientific papers on teledermatology.