It is that time of year again. Spring is in full bloom and Melanoma Monday is around the corner. Here in Arizona we live in perpetual spring, interrupted by blazingly hot summers. Thankfully, many that live here don’t wait until spring to think about skin protection and skin cancer.
Personally, I think about it all of the time. My Aunt Delores was not yet 50 when she developed a “weird spot” on her skin. Like many people 30 years ago, she had little to no information about skin cancer. She had no education about sunscreen and sun protection. I have a sadly prophetic picture of my Mom sitting with a reflector under the sun, her face bright red with sunburn, as she tried to attain the much sought after “healthy golden glow” (she later developed over a dozen skin cancers on her face). Her sister, my Aunt Delores, may never have been diagnosed if it were not for Mom, the RN. On one occasion, Mom noticed the black mark on her sister’s leg and sent her off to the dermatologist. Malignant melanoma was the verdict. It was so far advanced, there was little hope. Aunt Delores died within 6 months.
This scenario does not have to play out today. We know that “funny moles” and “weird spots” need to be checked by a board certified dermatologist, the people who are most accurate with early diagnosis. Although early diagnosis does help in a cure, the prognosis is still bleak.
Prevention is the way to stop people from dying needlessly.
Teen melanomas, though still rare, are increasing at an alarming rate. As a matter of fact, they have increased by 800% in young women since 1970! Tanning beds have added a new risk factor that was never experienced before, especially for young women. In recent years, I have not seen a melanoma or other skin cancer in a woman, in her twenties, who did not admit to tanning bed use in her teens. A study done 10 years ago warned that the average tanning bed emitted four times the UVA radiation and two times the UVB radiation of the midday summer sun in Washington DC.
Numbers don’t lie:
85%Of melanomas that do not run in families contain a specific gene mutation caused by UV radiation from sun or tanning beds
76% Of melanomas in 18-29 year olds who had tanned indoors, were due to tanning bed exposure
75% increased risk of getting a melanoma if you use a tanning bed before the age of 35
So let’s get the word out
- Know the dangers of tanning: http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/tanning
- Get to know a board certified dermatologist: http://www.aad.org/
- Wear Orange on Melanoma Monday May 6, 2013 http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/what-we-do/melanoma-monday#.UXVwILXvtqU