Sunbathe Now, Pay Later: Melanoma
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers, affecting an estimated 700,000 Americans every year. The most virulent of all skin cancers–malignant melanoma–strikes 32,000 Americans annually and is the cause of death for 6,800 of them. Fortunately, the death rate from melanoma is declining somewhat, probably because patients are seeking treatment earlier. Melanoma, like less aggressive skin cancers, is almost always curable in its early stages but has a tendency to spread when not caught early.
Excessive sun exposure is generally thought to be the cause of melanoma, especially sunburns and most notably among light-skinned persons. Dark-skinned persons, however, are not guaranteed protection against melanoma. African-Americans are more likely to develop this cancer on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nails, or in the mouth.
Persons with many moles or abnormal moles (color variations, irregular shapes, and flat) appear to have an increased risk of melanoma. One study found that patients with 50 or more small but normal moles had twice the risk of later developing melanoma as persons with 25 or fewer small, normal moles. Patients with one abnormal mole had twice the risk, and persons with 10 abnormal moles had 12 times the risk as persons with no abnormal moles. Certain factors may predispose you to getting skin cancer, even if you’ve never spent time in the sun. Some of these risk factors, are genetic, and may include having fair skin, light hair, tendency to freckle, tendency to burn easily, a family history of the disease, chronic sun exposure and blistering sunburns as a child or adolescent.
The American Academy of Dermatology encourages you to examine your entire body periodically to look for these warning signs and to see a dermatologist if any are present:
- changes in the surface of a mole
- scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule
- spread of pigment from the border into surrounding skin
- change in sensation, including itchiness, tenderness or pain
Eight Ways To Prevent Skin Cancer
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following precautions to reduce your changes of developing skin cancer:
- Minimize sun exposure, especially during the peak sun hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are the most intense.
- Apply a sunscreen liberally and frequently, and reapply every two hours when working, playing, or exercising outdoors, even on cloudy days. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 are recommended.
- Wear appropriate clothing during prolonged periods in the sun, including a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and pants.
- Beware of reflective surfaces. Sand, snow, concrete, and water can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s damaging rays.
- Avoid tanning salons and sunlamps since the ultraviolet rays emitted by these artificial sources are similar to those in sunlight and can cause sunburn, premature aging, and increased risk of skin cancer.
- Protect children by keeping them out of the sun or minimizing sun exposure and applying sunscreens beginning at six months of age.
- Teach children and teenagers sun protection, since sun exposure damage accumulates over the course of a lifetime. One severe childhood or adolescent sunburn doubles the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Examine your and your children’s skin regularly for any changes in moles, freckles, or skin discoloration.
Advanced Cancer Treatment Facilities
Through the collaborative efforts of the cancer centers throughout the Health Alliance, patients and their families receive the most comprehensive and highest quality cancer care available. Our continued commitment to provide the best possible patient care includes clinical research studies, programs of cancer prevention, cancer information services, commitment to community services and outreach activities, programs of research training and continuing education for health care professionals.
The Health Alliance continues to be a leader in cancer care using a multidisciplinary approach in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. Our diverse health care team includes physicians and specialists in all areas of cancer care including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, gynecological oncology, as well as nurses, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists and many others. In addition, Health Alliance physicians and world-renowned cancer researchers in our facilities offer internationally recognized services in neuro-oncology, head and neck oncology, stem cell transplantation and clinical cancer research. The Health Alliance offers a holistic approach to cancer care not only recognizing the physical needs of our patients, but also recognizing and supporting the emotional and spiritual needs of them and their families.
The Health Alliance is an integrated health care delivery system which includes The Christ Hospital, The University Hospital, The St. Luke Hospitals, The Jewish Hospital, The Fort Hamilton Hospital and the physicians of Alliance Primary Care.
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