It kills, on average, one American every hour. But melanoma does not have to be fatal. If caught early the skin cancer is highly treatable. Today, May 5th, the American Academy of Dermatology has declared "Melanoma Monday" to raise awareness of the disease and how to prevent it. It all starts with being sun smart.
"Using a sun screen is one of the most important things you can do to prevent damage from the sun's rays," says Douglas Grossman, MD, dermatologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, "products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide provide the best protection. And reapply after swimming or excessive sweating."
Some other tips for being "skin smart:"
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Of course, even if you are extraordinarily careful there may be times that a freckle or a mole causes concern. At those times, make an appointment with a dermatologist and, as Grossman says "remember the ABCD and E's of skin cancer."
- A is for Asymmetry- One half is not the same as the other
- B is for Border- borders are irregular, blurred or notched.
- C is for Color- melanoma can be brown, pink, tan or black.
- D is for Diameter- diameter is usually larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser)
- E is for evolving - lesion is changing over time
"There are other symptoms to be aware of," Grossman says, "if you experience pain, tenderness or itching, or if a mole is bleeding, oozing or has a scaly appearance, or a spot is not healing, then it's time to see a doctor." After all, early detection is key when it comes to treating melanoma.
You can get more information on melanoma, and other skin cancers, from the Cancer Learning Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute.