14 Mar Melanoma Risks Increase Among Women and Adolescents – What You Need To Know
Melanoma, which was once assumed to be a disease of the elderly, is now commonly striking 20- and 30-somethings. More than 65 percent of melanoma diagnoses among young people and children from 2001 to 2011 were women. It’s now the most common cancer among 25 to 29 years old and the second most common for people aged 15 to 29 years. So what is melanoma and how can you prevent it?
Melanoma, which is the deadliest of the three types of skin cancer, is a malignant tumor of cells that make the pigment melanin. This year in the US alone, there are 76,380 new cases of melanoma and 10,130 deaths. These usually arise in the skin, but can also come from other sites.
Melanoma appears as an atypical mole or appearance of a new mole. Melanoma is diagnosed by performing a biopsy, which is a local excision, of a lesion that looks suspicious – a mole or birthmark with an uneven border or discoloration. Melanoma can also form on the eye or anywhere on the body that has pigmented tissues. It’s important to know the risk factors to know if you are at risk of developing the disease.
Risk factors for developing melanoma include:
- Sun exposure
- Skin pigmentation
- Multiple birthmarks or moles
- Family and personal history of melanoma
- Environmental exposures
The science has shown that exposure to the sun intermittently leading to sunburn is associated with an increased risk of melanoma. People whose skin freckles and burns easily, or tans poorly, are especially susceptible to developing skin cancer. The good news, however, is that skin cancer is nearly 100 percent preventable.
Be smart about sun exposure
There is some conflicting advice regarding sun exposure with some sources suggesting to avoid the sun from 10 am to 4 pm while others stating that our bodies need Vitamin D from 10 to 20 minutes of daily sun exposure. We recommend limiting your time in the sun to no more than 10 minutes each day and always with a sunscreen.
Now that the weather is warming up, when you go to the beach, keep in mind that the sand reflects over 25 percent of the sun’s rays and that UV light easily penetrates through the top 12 inches of water. Water also reflects 100 percent of the sun’s rays, so swimming will magnify the sun’s effects on your skin. Make sure to choose a spot that’s in the shade and use an umbrella that has sun-protective fabric.
Always wear a sunscreen with minimum SPF 15, even on cloudy days, because nearly 70 percent of the sun’s rays can get through clouds. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that makeup with SPF in it is enough, because these can become concentrated in certain spots and don’t offer enough protection. Remember to reapply sunscreen after sweating or swimming. Sunscreens don’t filter out the harmful rays that can cause melanoma, though, so you need to take extra steps for prevention.
Wear protective clothing
Make smart clothing choices – long sleeves and dark, tightly-woven fabrics that will block rays. Choose a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that have UV protection.
Avoid tanning beds
The myth that tanning beds are safer than the sun still prevails. It’s completely untrue as tanning beds can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Check your skin regularly and visit a dermatologist
Examine your skin at home for any unusual-looking birthmarks or moles and check if they have changed in shape or color. After showering, inspect yourself from head to toe for new moles or any changes to existing moles. Have someone help to inspect your scalp and back of your neck. Take notes during your self-exams so you can refer to them later on.
In addition to your annual visit to the dermatologist, make an immediate appointment if you see any changes to your birthmarks or moles that need to be seen by a professional. Moles or birthmarks that have uneven borders, itch, or change in shape or size need to be seen by a doctor.
Early detection is one of the best forms of prevention and melanoma survival rates are increasing because of better treatments and earlier discoveries of the disease. As long as the cancer hasn’t spread beyond your skin, you have over a 98 percent chance of survival over 5 years. Call us at (562) 435-5621 to make an appointment today to have your skin examined by one of our doctors. For more information on moles and melanoma click here.