Skin cancer is one of the most treatable of all cancers – provided it is detected early. And, since the signs and symptoms of skin cancer are right out in the open for us to see, detection shouldn’t be an issue. However, it is important to know that Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer and is responsible for a majority of death from skin cancer.
Facts about Melanoma:
- Melanoma can spread more quickly than any other skin cancer
- Melanoma can develop anywhere – eyes, scalp, mouth, feet etc.
- Melanoma is the second most common cancer among men and women within the age 15-29
- The good news is that Melanoma is highly curable through simple treatments, if detected early.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Melanoma does not discriminate between anyone, however there are certain risk factors that increases the chances of getting melanomas. These risk factors are:
- Regular exposure to sunlight and tanning beds (this is considered as one of the biggest risk factors for melanoma)
- Fair skin, that can get sun-burnt easily
- Family history of melanoma
- A weak immune system (E.g. people who’ve recently had transplants and are on immunosuppressants, or people infected with HIV)
- Early childhood sunburns
- Personal history of melanoma or other forms of skin cancer
- Having too many moles on the body (this does not mean that you will get melanoma if you have too many moles, but it means you should be careful about exposing yourself to the sun)
How to Spot Melanomas?
The first sign of a melanoma is a new mole on the skin or a mole that changes its shape/size. However, moles account for about 20%-30% of melanomas. The rest of them develop on normal skin as bumps or pink coloured patches.
An “ABCDE” check is often suggested to find symptoms of Melanoma in moles.
- A stand for Asymmetrically (or irregularly) shaped moles
- B is for irregular Border
- C denotes change in Colour
- D is for Diameter (anything larger than 6 mm needs to be looked into in detail)
- E is for Evolving (new or moles that are changing shape over time)
How to Prevent Melanoma?
Following some simple tips can help lower the risks of melanoma.
- Always apply sunscreen. Preferably a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF higher than 30. If you need to stay out in the sun for a long period of time, then apply sunscreen every three hours.
- Avoid tanning beds. People who use tanning beds more than ten times a year are at a much higher risk of getting melanoma.
- Cover yourself up as much as possible, when out in the sun. Hats, scarves, sunglasses and visors are some items that can be used.
- Ensure your children do not stay out in the sun too long either or get sun burned.
- Get regular check-ups, especially if you fall in the high-risk category. Any new skin lesion or mole, that looks suspicious should be checked out immediately.
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