Is it a harmless skin mole or a potentially life-threatening skin cancer? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves, then our doctor, about every little skin discoloration that we have. Going overboard on the side of caution? Perhaps. But the incidents of melanoma is on the rise and primarily strikes young adults and children. Melanoma, like all other forms of cancer, is most treatable when caught in its early stages. May is skin cancer awareness month and familiarizing yourself with the causes, symptoms and prevention of melanoma may help you or someone you love become one less victim of this deadly form of cancer.
When unprotected skin is exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time, normal skin cells become abnormal. The abnormal skin cells grow rapidly and attack surrounding tissue and skin cancer begins its deadly assault.
People who live in the sunniest regions are more likely to develop skin cancer due to their frequent exposure to the sun’s rays. Melanoma is also more likely to occur in people who have a family history of skin cancer or abnormal moles.
Skin moles that change in size, shape or color are typical symptoms of melanoma. A afflicted mole may bleed, ooze or appear lumpy. This deadly form of cancer can also grow in skin without leaving a visible trace until much damage has been done. While melanoma can grow invisibly on the skin, it does have gender-specific patterns: Men typically have skin cancer on their upper back while women tend to have skin cancer on their legs. People who drive a lot, regardless of gender, typically develop skin cancer on the left side of the face or left arm, and it’s all due to sun exposure. The sun shine on the left side of the face and left arm through the driver’s side window of a vehicle.
No form of cancer is 100% preventable, but some things can be done to reduce the risk of developing melanoma. Skin cancer is usually found on parts of the body which are rationally exposed to the sun, like face, backs, shoulders, arms and legs, but it can develop on any part of the body. Reduce your risk by applying sunscreen all over body before going outdoors and re-applying it frequently while outdoors. When indoors near a window (vehicle or office window) for long periods of time, sunscreen is needed to block the UV rays too. Stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am and 4pm when damaging UV rays are at the highest. Wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pants and avoid tanning beds.
Undetected skin cancer can grow into other arts of the body, damaging lymph nodes, organs, tissue and bones. Early detection is essential for successful treatment. Routinely inspect skin for any changes in moles or other skin growths. Children who play outdoors in the summer sun (at the beach or in their own backyards) should be protected and inspected regularly for melanoma.
Skin Cancer Foundation