Last updated 05/02/2021
Now that we are finally seeing the sun and warmer temps (80s today?), we will be exposing more skin. It is time to be more protected against the UVA and UVB rays. And always check your spots.
With the nicer weather there are additional opportunities to be outdoors. You can start enjoying outdoor activities such as sports and just strolling through the park. Warmer weather brings exposure to the sun.
Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis. More details.
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May is Melanoma Awareness Month. If you have ever known anyone diagnosed with Melanoma you know how serious this is. It shows no mercy and does not discriminate.
It can spread (metastasize) and when it spreads it does so quickly. So be aware and knowledgeable on spotting a lesion that is suspicious. Don’t be afraid to contact your dermatologist, this is what they do.
Melanoma is the most rare however it is the most serious skin cancer. It is a life threating malignant tumor. This cancer can develop anywhere on the skin and yes, even the mouth and eyes. Exposure to (UV) ultraviolet radiation from the sun, tanning lamps and beds increase the risk.
The tumor forms in the melanocytes, the cells responsible for our skin color. Melanocytes are in the epidermis, the upper layer of skin. Melanoma can spread to internal organs and bones. This is the danger.
Be Aware of Skin Cancer
The main cause of Melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This can be in the form of the sun, tanning lamps and beds. Limiting this exposure would help with prevention.
Melanomas can take on different appearances this makes it difficult to recognize. It is important to pay attention to your skin. If you notice a change of any kind and it concerns you, have it checked out by your Dermatologist.
This list is a starting point of what to be aware of:
- Skin changes – new spot, color, the shape and size of the current spot
- Sore spot – a mole that won’t heal, causes pain or is tender
- Mole – is itchy or starts to bleed
- Sore mole or lump – that appears shiny, waxy, smooth or pale
- Red lump – that is firm, looks crusty and bleeds
- Red spot – flat and rough, dry or scaly
- Blackish spot or streak – beneath the fingernail or toenail not caused by recent trauma (subungual melanoma)
Check Your Spots and Know Your ABCDEs
- A –Asymmetry – this means one side is different from the other, if you were to split in half
- B – Border – the outside edges are irregular, scalloped or not defined
- C – Color – there is a difference from one location to the other. May be shades of tan and brown, black or sometimes even red, white and blue
- D – Diameter – usually lesions can be larger than a pencil eraser. However, they can be smaller when diagnosed (better to catch early).
- E – Evolving – the spot looks different size, shape or color is changing compared to others
Doing Skin Cancer Self-Exam
You will need a hand-held mirror to do a self-exam (and skin should be visible). This will help with seeing the skin behind you.
First, check your front and back in the mirrors. Then raise your arms and look at your right and left sides.
Then bend your elbows and view your forearms, back of the upper arms and palms.
With the hand-held mirror (or floor standing) check back of legs and soles of feet, don’t forget spaces between toes and fingers.
Still using the hand-held mirror check the back of neck and scalp. Part and lift your hair.
Last step, look at your back and buttocks with the hand-held (or floor standing) mirror. Take notes and keep a journal. This will help with consulting your dermatologist.
Three Types of Melanoma
Anywhere on the skin. Limiting UV exposure and regular skin exams by your dermatologist.
- Wear sunscreen everyday no matter what the weather is. (I have Cetaphil Daily Facial SPF 50+, even has a warning against sun exposure.) Broad Spectrum protects against UVA & UVB rays. Many products now contain SPF. Reapply after swimming and sweating.
- Wear protective clothing including wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses outdoors. Cover your skin!
- Find shade; avoid the sun’s rays from 10AM-4PM when they are the strongest.
- Be cautious near reflective surfaces such as water (it’s like a mirror), snow and sand. These throw back damaging rays increasing your chances of getting sunburn.
- Avoid sunburn. If you had a sunburn that blistered when young your chances of having melanoma later, doubles.
Yes the eyes. Ocular melanoma is detected through a dilated eye exam by an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist. This is an aggressive form making it important to catch early.
So have that annual eye exam (these are good reasons to have these preventative exams). The Cure OM program started in 2011.
Mucosal melanoma has no prevention known. Mucous membranes or moist areas inside our body become affected. This is a rare form occurring in areas of the head (sinuses, nasal passages and oral cavity), neck (respiratory tract), GI tract, vagina, vulva, and anus.
Unlike other melanomas it has no known connection to UV exposure. That is to say since it has no identifiable risk factors or causes it is quite advanced when found.
Specialist can Help
ENTs, OB/GYNs, GI specialist and dentist can help find these unusual spots during exams in their offices. If you suspect a change that has take place request a special screening.
Anyone of any age may be affected by melanoma. Younger people have been diagnosed. People with fair skin, light hair and eye color are at high risk.
If you have a family history or have had melanoma yourself in the past you are at risk. Wear your sunscreen, Check your spots and see your Dermatologist at least once a year.
Wrapping it up
Make a special point to observe your spots this May. That is look at any freckles, warts, moles, lesions and so on for changes.
Take notes of areas and be aware if they suddenly look different. Skin cancers mainly develop from over exposure to the sun.
Know your ABCDEs. Wear sunscreen and clothes to cover skin. You can even get melanoma in your eyes and mouth.
Do you protect yourself from the sun? How so?
Header Photo by Polina Kovaleva from pexels
Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF)
http://melanoma.org accessed 05/07/2020
https://www.aad.org/public/public-health/skin-cancer-awareness accessed 05/09/2020