When Springtime comes to Southern Nevada we are drawn outside to enjoy the warmer temperatures and outdoor activities. As we’ve seen, these warmer temperatures begin to rise faster than most of us would like eventually leading to the Summer season. This occurs because the Earth’s rotation brings us closer to the sun during this time of year, exposing us to higher levels of Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation. The official start of Summer is June 20, 2017 and it will soon be over 100 degrees consistently. It is important to remember to protect ourselves and our skin from the sun’s UV radiation because it is known to damage our skin cells and is a major contributor to the development of skin cancers.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month.
With this in mind, Dr. Daulat and I felt it necessary to remind our friends about the dangers associated with Melanoma. Melanoma develops when the pigment cells in our skin, named Melanocytes, become damaged by the sun’s UV rays. The abnormal pigment cells begin to spread out into the surrounding skin and produce irregularly shaped and irregularly pigmented skin lesions. These lesions typically begin as a flat, dark brown or black lesion within the skin that most people would refer to as a “freckle”, which is actually a pigmented mole. Some of these moles may have been present for years before undergoing changes and it is, typically, after repeated sun exposures and burns that the lesions noticeably change.
It is recommended that people perform self-examination of their skin frequently to watch for any visible changes in their moles (ABCDE of Melanoma): 1) irregular shape (Asymmetry), 2) irregular margins of a mole (Border changes), 3) irregular color (Color changes), 4) growing lesions (moles that are growing quickly or Diameter larger than a pencil eraser ~ 6mm) and 5) an existing mole that begins to change (Evolution). Additionally, a professional skin exam is recommended, at least annually, and more frequently if individuals have a personal history or family history of abnormal moles or melanoma.
There are some important statistics to know when talking about Melanoma*:
- An estimated 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017.2
- An estimated 9,730 people will die of melanoma in 2017.2
- Melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.2
The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.12
The estimated 5-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 98 percent in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 62 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes, and 18 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.2
On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.14
Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent15 and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.
With these figures in mind, we recommend that you schedule a full-body skin examination as soon as possible to identify any abnormal skin lesions and prevent the development of Melanoma.
* statistics provided by SkinCancer.org