May is National Melanoma Awareness Month
We know that our path begins decades before disease. Although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is highly preventable, and when caught early – highly curable.
Those at higher risk include those with fair skin, red or blonde hair, light eyes, those with a history of 5 or more severe sunburns, those with more than 50 moles, and those with a personal or family history of melanoma.
90% of melanomas are thought to be caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight.
Steps you can take to prevent melanoma and other forms of skin cancer:
- Avoid direct sunlight between the hours of 10am and 4 pm.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB coverage) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, every day on sun-exposed skin.
- In the case of extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Do not burn!
- Wear protective clothing when outdoors, including a hat and sunglasses.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
- Indoor tanning has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by 75%, and is largely responsible for melanoma as the number one cause of cancer death in females aged 25-29.
Early detection is the best way to treat melanoma.
Know your skin, examine it regularly and look for the “ABCDE’s” of melanoma.
A: Is the mole Asymmetrical?
B: Does the mole have an irregular Border?
C: Is the mole composed of multiple Colors?
D: Is the Diameter of the mole larger than the size of a pencil eraser?
E: Is the mole Evolving (changing in size and thickness)?
The role of your doctor:
The National Cancer Institute highly recommends regular mole checks by your physician, to complement skin self-examination. A practitioner’s decision on whether a mole should be removed or if it is changing can be quite subjective. Because your physician likely sees thousands of moles per year on hundreds of patients, having a photo documentation and tracking system is very helpful. At RHS, we offer the FotoFinder system, a computerized mole-mapping and tracking system. High resolution photos of your moles are obtained, with any concerning lesions evaluated in high resolution with dermoscopy. Images are saved for future comparison- at which time the software identifies moles that are changing or new. This helps the physician decide which moles should be removed, or are stable and can be observed.
Mole-mapping should be considered if you fall into any of the high-risk categories above. For more information on this incredible preventive service, contact our office.