Each year, the month of May is dedicated to Melanoma awareness. This includes the special day titled, Melanoma Monday, which occurs on the first Monday of the month and is geared towards the education and empowerment of sharing facts about melanoma. Melanoma is one of the deadliest types of skin cancer affecting populations across the globe. Every Melanoma Monday is designed to help people to remember to do self-checks on their skin, and those in their family. The American Academy of Dermatology sponsors and drives this month and day every year!
Did you know that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than any other type of cancer? The statistics in the United States regarding melanoma skin cancers are that one in five people will develop skin cancer by the age of seventy (ACS). This year alone, over one-hundred-ninety-two-thousand people will face a battle with melanoma cancer.
For many people, sun exposure was often a challenge. Growing up in certain decades meant little or no sunscreen, no education about what UVA and UVB rays could do to the skin, and some were most likely avid tanning bed users. For some people this behavior and lifestyle will never affect them- they are the rare and lucky ones. For many others, these risk factors only increased their overall risk for developing melanoma in their lifetime. These three factors alone can raise the risk factor for melanoma by over seventy-five percent (ACS).
Today, doctors are more aware of the risk factors, even the smaller ones and provide their patients with the knowledge and materials needed to make better decisions for their overall health. In a study done in 2018, it proved that melanoma was more linked to tanning in the sun or in tanning beds than smoking was to lung cancer. This is a huge fact and one that Melanoma Monday is designed to help with!
As with any illness and cancer, there are often many facts and a few mistruths that are coursing through the wires. Here are some of those facts:
- Approximately one person dies of melanoma every hour in the United States.
- In 2019, over 192,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Of these, more than 92,000 will be diagnosed with an invasive form.
- An estimated 7,230 Americans will die of melanoma in 2019.
- Melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about ninety-eight-percent in the United States. The survival rate falls to sixty-two percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes, and eighteen-percent when the disease spreads to distant organs.
- The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one study done in the United Kingdom found that about eighty-six-percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, including UVA and UVB rays.
- Women aged forty-nine and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancers.
- The estimated five-year melanoma survival rate for blacks is only sixty-nine-percent, versus ninety-three-percent for whites. Melanomas are often identified in more advanced stages in people of color, which may be because of a prevalent myth that people of color cannot get skin cancer.
- Risk factors for all types of skin cancer include skin that burns easily; blonde or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; immune system-suppressing diseases or treatments; and a history of skin cancer.
- Melanoma is not just skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body. This includes the eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, etc.
- Melanoma does not discriminate by age, race or gender.
- Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages twenty-five to thirty and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages thirty to thirty-five.
- Approximately 500 American children are diagnosed with melanoma each year.
- The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 50.
- Today, nearly one-million people live with melanoma in the United States.
- The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 40 for Caucasians, 1 in 200 for Hispanics and 1 in 1,000 for African Americans.
- Ocular melanoma, or melanoma of the eye, is the most common primary eye tumor in adults with around two-thousand new cases diagnosed each year in the United States.
- Mucosal melanoma is a rare form of melanoma that develops in the sinuses, nasal passages, oral cavity, vagina, anus and other areas, making up about one-percent of melanoma cases.
Facts about Tanning Beds & Melanoma
Many people are still utilizing tanning beds to get that freshly baked skin glow. Tanning beds are the leading connection to many people developing this type of skin cancer, and it is so easily avoidable. Here are some facts about tanning beds and melanoma.
- Indoor tanning devices are proven to cause cancer and have been classified into the highest cancer risk category by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research.
- Exposure to tanning beds before age thirty increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by seventy-five-percent.
- Young people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them.
- Research has found that indoor tanning does not protect against sunburn.
- Having five or more blistering sunburns early in life increases one’s melanoma risk by eighty-percent.
How can I prevent melanoma or lower my risk factors for developing this type of skin cancer?
One of the first and easiest ways to help protect yourself is always to wear an SPF 15 sunscreen on your exposed skin, or keep your skin covered with clothing at all times. Although, using sunscreen alone will not do the job by itself. Skin damage done in your childhood and teenage can come back to haunt you in adulthood, so always keep an eye out for skin changes over your whole body.
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM each day.
- Don’t get sunburned. Seriously. Tanned or burned skin is a sign of damage, which means your cell’s DNA could be being damaged beyond correction.
- Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds. Consider your future each time you think of laying down and closing the lid with the purple lights blaring on to your body.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses whenever outside.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. One ounce of sunscreen is approximately two tablespoons.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month, checking for any skin abnormalities or differences in moles and freckles.
- See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam
If you ever suspect that your skin has changed or become altered in a way that is unusual to you, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or dermatologist to begin testing and come up with a plan for treatment if needed. The key in surviving and winning the battle with cancer is early detection and living a lifestyle that works to prevent and lower our daily risk factors!