Are You At Risk?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Caucasians and men older than 50 years of age are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.
Your risk is higher if you have:
- Fair skin, light eyes, and a tendency to freckle
- The risk of getting melanoma is 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 200 for Hispanics, and 1 in 1,000 for blacks.
- Having someone in your family with melanoma increases your risk ten-fold.
- A large number of moles, especially unusual appearing moles.
- History of frequent sun exposure, especially in childhood.
- History of sunburns.
- Decreased immune system, such as transplant patients and patients with HIV/AIDS.
Melanoma is the least common of the skin cancers (the other types are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma), but it is the most serious. It can be life threatening if it spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body. The frequency of diagnosis of melanoma has been increasing in recent years, faster than any other cancer.
Melanoma starts in the color-producing cells of the skin and may develop in an existing mole or may occur as a new mole. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to a complete cure, while advanced forms are likely to have a poor outcome. Advanced melanoma can spread to lymph nodes as well as other areas in the body, typically the lungs, liver, and brain. More skin cancer facts . . .
Skin Cancer is on of the most treatable cancers - so why are people dying of it?
It can actually be prevented rather easily, unlike many other forms of cancer
- Regular use of sunscreen in children can lower their risk of skin cancer later in life by almost 78%
- 90% of all skin cancer occur on parts of the body that are not protected by clothing, such as your face, ears and hands.
- Most people apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen.
- A recent study shows the five-year survival rate for African-Americans afflicted with melanoma is 58.8%, compared to 84.8% in caucasians, showing that skin cancer is more deadly for African-Americans and other minorities.
Self Care Guidleines: Protective measures, such as avoiding skin exposure to sunlight during peak sun hours (10 AM to 3 PM), wearing protective clothing, and applying high-SPF sunscreen, are essential for reducing exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. These protective measures are especially important in children because 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV light occurs before age 18.
Once a month, you should perform a self-exam to look for signs of skin cancer. It is best to perform the exam in a well-lit area after a shower or bath. Use a full-length mirror with the added assistance of a hand mirror when necessary. Using a hair dryer can help you examine any areas of skin covered by hair, such as your scalp.
- In front of a full-length mirror, inspect the front of your body, making sure to look at the front of your neck, chest (including under breasts), legs, and genitals.
- With your arms raised, inspect both sides of your body, making sure to examine your underarms.
- With your elbows bent, examine the front and back of your arms as well as your elbows, hands, fingers, area between your fingers, and fingernails.
- Inspect the tops and bottoms of your feet, the area between your toes, and toenails.
- With your back to the mirror and holding a hand mirror, inspect the back of your body, including the back of your neck, shoulders, legs, and buttocks.
- Using a hand mirror, examine your scalp and face.
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