Melanoma [return to the list of articles]

With summer near, the concern arises for melanoma risk. Melanoma is a form of cancer, which arises from a normal cell called the Melanocyte. The incidence is rising despite the increased use of sun protection-30,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. Caucasians, especially fair skin individuals, people with a family history of melanoma, or those with multiple moles, are at an increased risk. Also, women are slightly more at risk than their male counterparts. In reality, those who are episodic "sun worshippers" and burn easily are more at risk than steady, continuous tanners. Inner city and office workers are more at risk than "outside" workers. The common factor is severity and number of burns.

Melanoma usually presents as a mole or skin lesion, which has a change in shape, color, size, or texture, or bleeds. The areas of concern are usually found in skin regions exposed to the sun such as the arms, legs, or face. It is wise to remember, however, that they may be found elsewhere in places like the torso, back and even under the nails. Any lesion of concern should be examined by your family doctor or dermatologist.

The earlier a melanoma lesion is identified and treated, the better the outcome. If found early, the majority of melanomas can be surgically cured. The wisest recommendation is prevention and following the advice of the American Academy of Dermatology for safe sun exposure. These recommendations include always wearing sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when out in the sun; minimizing sun exposure during the most intense times of the day - 10a.m. to 4 p.m.; taking caution with sun exposure on hazy days; always wearing protective, light clothing and including sunglasses as a vital part of any wardrobe. People should also take caution in areas where there is reflected sunlight, such as on water or snow. Have a fun and safe summer!