How to Recognize Melanoma Warning Signs
by Dr. Corinne Howington
With beach season upon us, our coastal locals start taking time to soak up the sun, but these long, light-filled days often mean overexposure to the day’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays.
With more than three million cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually, beachgoers need to be more mindful than ever as more than 95 percent of all skin cancers are associated with sun exposure. Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing skin cancer by almost 50 percent.
Designated by the American Academy of Dermatology, National Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month is set for the month of May to try to raise awareness about skin cancer and increase the chances of early detection.
Here at home, we must be committed to raising awareness and encouraging action to prevent melanoma.
The American Cancer Society reports that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. About 9,320 people are expected to die from this disease in 2018. The good news is that skin cancer is not only preventable but is the most curable form of cancer.
Our goal for the month of May is to bring attention to skin disease and to get people to talk about an uncomfortable topic.
Education is the key to fighting this form of cancer. If the disease is caught early and treated, the cure rate is extremely high.
Be aware of any spots on your skin that are different from the others or anything that’s changing, itching or bleeding. When checking your skin, you should look for the ABCDE’s of melanoma:
One half of your dark spot is unlike the other half.
An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border is around your dark spot.
The hue is varied from one area to another; your dark spot has shades of tan, brown or black or is sometimes white, red or blue.
Melanoma spots are usually greater than the size of a pencil eraser when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
A mole or dark spot that looks unusual or is changing in size, shape or color.
As a note, not all melanomas will look like moles but may appear to be a bruise or spot that doesn’t heal.
Early detection remains the best way to fight melanoma. Patients whose melanoma is treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs have a five-year survival rate of 99 percent. This drops to 63 percent when the disease spreads to the lymph nodes and other nearby organs and 20 percent when it spreads to distant organs according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
It is recommended that everyone perform regular skin self-exams. Prevention is the best form of medicine. So this May, add a healthy dose of sunscreen to your skin.
Dr. Corinne Howington, of Low Country Dermatology, is a board certified dermatologist, with expertise in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. For more information, call (912) 354-1018 or visit www.lcderm.com.