May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month
September 20, 2022 by VitalSkin Dermatology
While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, it’s also one of the most preventable. May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month, which is a great time to educate on the dangers of excessive sun exposure and to remind everyone about the importance of regular skin examinations.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer that occurs in melanocytes. These cells are found in our skin and produce our skin’s pigment as well as the moles we have. Normal melanocytes produce melanin, which helps protect our skin by absorbing ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Excessive and chronic absorption of UVR can damage these cells, allowing for uncontrolled growth of melanocytes and the development of melanoma.
Can Any Mole be Melanoma?
Checking your skin regularly can help catch irregular moles or early melanoma skin cancers! Asymmetry, borders and colors of all of your moles is important to be familiar with. Melanoma skin cancers will be irregular in their symmetry, have uneven borders and have multiple colors. If you notice these features are, please schedule with your dermatology provider immediately. Melanoma skin cancers can also break these rules and come in varying forms. About 20-30% of melanoma skin cancers can develop in existing moles, but 70-80% can develop on normal-appearing skin.That’s why it’s crucial to monitor for any new moles that may appear on your skin as well as schedule regular skin exams with your dermatology provider.
How to Prevent Melanoma
Studies show that up to 90% of melanoma skin cancers are linked to UVR exposure. This exposure comes from the sun or tanning beds. While there are risk factors that are out of our control, such as genetics and family history, protecting our skin from excessive sun exposure can be easily accomplished. When it comes to sunscreen, choose a broad-spectrum product that’s at least 30 SPF. Stay consistent with sunscreen use even on cloudy days, especially on the face, ears and neck. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes when in the sun and if swimming, every time to you get out of the water.
In addition to sunscreen, there are other ways to protect your skin. Wear sunglasses, long sleeves and a hat while in the sun. As for tanning beds, it’s best to avoid them altogether. According to research done by the American Academy of Dermatology, women who use indoor tanning devices before the age of 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma. Instead, try using sunless tanning lotion or getting spray tans.
Regular sunscreen use (ask us about this at your next appointment or look online here) and reducing your exposure to UVR are some of the most important steps you can take in preventing melanoma skin cancer. Staying up-to-date on your screenings is equally important. Early detection of skin cancer is the key to effective treatment. Remember, 99% of skin cancers are treatable when caught in the beginning.
About the Author
Nimra Tanvir is a certified physicians assistant at VitalSkin affiliate, Dermatology+Aesthetics. Dermatology+Aesthetics is conveniently located in the neighborhood of Oak/ Elmwood Park in Chicago. If you have any questions about melanoma, staying safe in the sun or would like to schedule your next screening, click here!