May is melanoma awareness month and with that comes the reminder of sun safety, tanning bed safety and the ABC's of melanoma detection. For those of us who have forgotten, when you discover a mole or something that you think looks like a mole, here's the watch list:
A = asymmetry - one half is unlike the other
B = border being irregular
C = colour - varied from one area to another
D = diameter - greater than the size of a pencil eraser, itches or bleeds
E = evolves - changes over a period of time
Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers but has a 95% cure rate with early detection. It is often unrelated to sun exposure as it can be sporadic or genetic.
A story about one of the more interesting Awareness Campaigns was told to me by my hairdresser. Volunteers with the Skin Cancer Foundation visited hundreds of salons reminding their operators to look carefully at their clients' scalps. It is one of the most notorious hiding spots for moles/melanoma and difficult for any individual to detect or follow.
Melanoma can strike at any age and occur anywhere on the body but is more prevalent in adults. It doesn't discriminate between male and female. There are actually 3 types of skin cancers of which melanoma is only one. The three types are treated similarly and are stage dependant. This is an excellent website for further information:
Great controversy continues over the use of tanning salons - the type of light bulbs they use - and the amount of time one spends in them. Vermont and California are currently the only two States in the US which prohibit minors from using tanning salons. A very prominent media campaign is being staged by an 18 year old Canadian girl - who is believed to have melanoma caused from habitual tanning salon use - hoping that we adopt similar laws. "There exists significant scientific evidence that indoor tanning is linked to increased risk of developing melanoma..." says the American Academy of Dermatology. UV light occurring both naturally and artificially is a known carcinogen.
I have had two friends die from melanoma - both male - both quickly - as a result of their moles having been unseen - one had his occur on his lower back and the other on the back of his arm. Here is a step-by-step guide for self-examination:
Finally, here's the lowdown on sunscreens per Dr. Joseph Mercola - with him saying that many of the popular brands contain even more harmful ingredients than the sun:
If you can't be bothered to read it, the bottom line is that he recommends the best sunscreen to be covering up - wear a hat and long sleeves.