While summer is here and we have long days in the sun I thought it would be important to talk about skin cancer, in particular melanoma.
So what is a melanoma?
Well like all cancer it has to start somewhere. Throughout your body you are made up of specialized cells. If any one of those cells decides to go rogue, it can start growing and becoming a cancer.
In your skin you have many specialized cells as you can see in the picture: squamous cell, basal cell, and melanocyte. If any of these cells go rogue you can develop any of the three skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, or melanoma (All bad things, but melanoma being the worst). Melanocytes are the color producing cells of the skin (help give you that tan color). When cancer forms in these cells, called “melanoma,” it can be in an existing mole, new mole, or even in the skin without a mole.
Ok so let’s drop some skin cancer facts (knowledge bombs):
- Melanoma is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the United States
- If someone in your immediate family has had melanoma it increases your risk of getting it 10x
- Most susceptible are fair skin, light eyes, and tendency to freckle
- Risk of melanoma is 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 200 for hispanics, and 1 in 1,000 for blacks
- History of sunburns whether recent or in childhood increases your risk
- If you have a decreased immune system: These are folks with HIV/AIDS or patients on immune suppressing medications, like transplant patients, the risk is higher
- Tanning beds may increase your risk
- Men are more likely to develop melanoma on the head, neck, and trunk
- Woman are most likely to develop melanoma on the legs and arms
Important: If you got sunburn on your right arm, you are just as likely to get melanoma on your left arm, head, leg, etc… It can show up anywhere!
What should you be looking for: (Every Month-go get naked in a full length mirror) Some of you may have heard of the ABCDE checklist? E-Evolving is the most important in my opinion. If you think anything has changed or looks different get it checked out.
Why are we talking skin cancer?
Because people die from this and it can be PREVENTED. ALL YOU NEED IS THE KNOWLEDGE, SELF-CHECKS, AND YEARLY VISITS TO YOUR PRIMARY DOCTOR! If caught early, you can get it removed and be cured. (This all depends on how deep it has gone-see below.)
Melanoma is deadly because it dives down into your skin, like a gopher, trying to get into your lymphatic system where it finds a free ticket to spread anywhere in your body.
How to decrease your risk of melanoma?
Although the sun is a wonderful thing, it gives off two forms of UV light (UV-A and UV-B). It turns out UV-B light is most harmful (remember for jeopardy), but UV-A is still damaging. Sunscreen requires you apply correctly and frequently. Most people fail at this, thus clothing is probably the best.
You still get sunburned on cloudy days; these UV rays go through clouds no problem.
- Sunscreen: Only use SPF 30+: Apply 30 min to 1hr before getting in the sun, reapply every 2-3 hours, or after swimming
- Clothing: Stay covered. They are making some great UV protective clothing like Aftco’s Samurai shirts.
- Melanoma is PREVENTABLE with the above knowledge, monthly self-skin checks using ABCDE checklist, and seeing your primary care doctor annually for check ups
- Stay covered up when in the sun or apply sunscreen appropriately with SPF 30+
- See a doctor, Primary Care doctor or dermatologist if you have ANY concerns
Here’s the deal guy/girls, you all are some of the hardest working folks in America. For some of you going to see a doctor or doing some of the above checklists may not be a priority. But if you leave this article with anything I want it to be this: Whatever reason it may be that gets you to the doctor annually and/or keep up with your health, run with it. If you do it for your dad, son/daughter, friend, or even the fact you still have a cow tuna on the bucket list…whatever it may be. Please take care of yourselves. Nobody should have to stop doing what they love or leave this life early because of a preventable disease.
Thank you for listening and if any of you have questions or want to learn more about a specific topic please message me in the Bloodydecks Forum: bgeno1226
For more information please visit, http://www.skincancer.org/