Today, May 6, is considered Melanoma Monday by the American Academy of Dermatology. Although we are just coming out of a 3 day non-stop rainy period, for those of us living in Florida, everyday is a day for us to remember skin cancer as we are constantly being exposed to the sun. In addition, many of us have family or friends who have been diagnosed with a skin cancer.
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer after basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Although melanoma accounts for only 4% of all skin cancers, it causes the greatest number of skin cancer–related deaths worldwide. Melanoma can affect your skin only, or it may spread to your organs and bones leading to significant illness and even death. Early detection of melanoma, at the stage when it is thin and still localized to the skin, is the best means of reducing mortality.
Melanomas can arise out of preexisting moles or can arise “de novo,” or without association with a preexisting pigmented spot on the skin. The development of melanoma is multifactorial and can be related to multiple risk factors, including fair complexion (patients with red or blond hair and tendency towards freckling are more at risk), excessive childhood sun exposure, a history of blistering sunburns, an increased number of common or atypical moles, a family history of melanoma, and older age.
Performing monthly self skin exams is an important part of early melanoma detection as abnormal moles, generally thought to be the precursors of melanomas, and melanomas can often be found by patients themselves. Signs to look for in existing skin spots or lesions are nicely reviewed in what we call the “THE ABCDE’s of Melanoma.”
A) Asymmetry – one half does not match the other half
B) Border – irregularity – the edges are notched or ragged
C) Color – varied shades of tan, black and brown
D) Diameter – greater than 6 millimeters
E) Evolving – change in size, shape, or shade of color
The best prevention for all kinds of skin cancer, including melanoma, is to protect yourself whenever you are out in the sun. You should always use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater when out in the sun for more than a few minutes. It takes approximately a shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover the entire body. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. It should be reapplied more often if swimming or sweating.
At Intracoastal Dermatology, Dr. Kendall Adkisson and Dr. Florence O’Connell are committed to providing thorough skin exams and emphasize monthly skin exams and early detection. As the summer months are coming, be sure to protect your skin and get regular skin checks from your dermatologist.
In support of the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOT Skin Cancer campaign, the doctors and staff at Intracoastal Dermatology participated in SPOT OrangeTM which encourages wearing orange in support of melanoma awareness.