An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This adage could not be truer when it comes to melanoma. When caught early, melanoma has a very high cure rate, around 95%. When you know what to look for (which is one of the purposes of this page), you can be better equipped to recognize the signs of early melanoma.
Another major factor in combating melanoma from a public health standpoint is prevention. Recognizing what puts certain people at risk is supremely important. The following are risk factors for developing melanoma, and those people who are concerned about their own risk should see a dermatologist.
- Sun exposure – unlike other skin cancers, melanoma does not correlate with lifetime sun exposure. Instead, a history of multiple blistering sun burns early in life (younger than age 18) separated by time is most concerning. Protect yourself and your loved ones from this by limiting the time spent in the sun, using broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen when in the sun, wearing sun-protective clothing, and recognizing that high altitude increases the harmful radiation by the sun.
- Family/Genetic – melanoma tends to have some genetic patterns, handed down in families, so if you have had a direct family member with melanoma, or a history of it yourself, you should be at a heightened state of vigilance.
- Phenotypic (skin type) – lighter skinned (fairer) people are at increased risk. Most at risk are those with red hair, or light blond hair with blue eyes. These people have a higher risk of burning in the sun, and sometimes have genetics that allow melanoma to grow more quickly.
- Number of Moles – people with abnormally high numbers of moles (>100) are at increased risk, as the mole count increases, so does the risk.
- History of Tanning Bed Use – our modern culture has placed aesthetic value on dark brown skin, and the epidemic of indoor tanning, especially at a young age, has claimed many lives because of melanoma. If you or a loved one has a significant history of indoor tanning the risks of melanoma are higher. Just one indoor tanning session increases the odds of melanoma 20%, each additional session during the same year boosts the risk nearly another 2%!!
See the Word Document on this page to download a pamphlet showing the risks and warning signs as well as ways to minimize your risk.