May–the month of flowers, that beautiful Spring bloom, warmer weather, and also Melanoma Awareness. The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) and the Skin Cancer Foundation recognize Skin Cancer Prevention and Melanoma Awareness all May long. There are many different types of skin cancers, all ranging in severity and mortality rates, but they are ALL worth understanding and detecting.
Melanoma is the #1 leading cancer in GENERAL in the United States. It is considered the most harmful skin cancer as well. Melanoma is a cancer that most commonly begins with a mole and can travel to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes and internal organs. When found early, melanoma can be highly treatable.
People of all ages and skin tones are susceptible to melanoma. How can we detect it? Performing self-exams to keep an eye out for any moles that are rapidly changing in size, color, or texture is key. It’s also beneficial to have a full-body skin exam with a dermatologist to scan and detect any moles you’re unsure of or cannot see with your own eyes. Most melanoma moles are found in areas that have had the most sun exposure, but can be found on hidden and well-protected areas of the body as well. Melanoma can look like many things:
- Changing mole
- Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
- Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, is growing in size
- Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
- Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
- Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
- Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
UV (ultraviolet) light is the number one cause of melanoma skin cancer. UV light is a carcinogen that comes from the sun and tanning beds, damaging our skin. In an attempt to repair this damage, the body can develop mutations, which can build into skin cancers. Spending extended time outdoors without SPF protection, protective clothing and hats increases the risk of developing skin cancer as well as visible signs of aging (wrinkles, crepey skin, & brown spots). Tanning beds tend to have even stronger UV rays than those from the sun, making them extremely dangerous and harmful to your skin and health.
Other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can be more common, but are not considered quite as aggressive as melanoma. They are still important to catch and remove for the sake of the patient’s overall health.
Find more information from reputable sources such as the AAD or The Skin Cancer Foundation. Schedule a dermatology exam with any of our certified providers to DETECT & PREVENT any skin concerns by calling (815) 229-9333 ext. 1.