May Is Melanoma Awareness Month

Doctor examining melanoma on woman

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and May 2nd is designated by the American Academy of Dermatology as Melanoma Monday. On this day, dermatologists focus on raising awareness of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

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Although skin cancer can affect anyone at any time, people older than 50 are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population. According to a survey taken by the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016, many Americans, and men in particular, need a refresher course on safe skin information. Only 56 percent of men and 76 percent know that there is no such thing as a healthy tan and only 54 percent of men knew that getting a “base” tan is not at all healthy as compared to 70 percent of women. We need to encourage people — men especially — to use good sun sense and protect their skin by seeking shade when possible, wearing sun protective clothing, and generously applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when outside. Plus, men need a reminder not to forget a hat and sunglasses to protect the scalp, face, and eyes.

It is estimated that one person will die from melanoma every hour in the United State. Reduce your risk of melanoma by practicing good skin habits. Limit ultraviolet light exposure (the most preventable skin cancer risk factor) from the sun when outside. It’s also important to learn the early warning signs of melanoma — when detected and treated early and before it spreads, the cancer has a high survival rate.

Identify the warning signs of melanoma by following the ABCDE guidelines:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other
  • B is for Border: The edges of the mole are irregular and jagged, not smooth
  • C is for Color: Melanoma doesn’t have to be all black, it can have variable color (black, brown, red, white)
  • D is for Diameter: Bigger spots can be more worrisome. Most melanomas are bigger than 6mm (about the size of a pencil eraser), although some can start smaller
  • E is for Evolving: This is the MOST important sign! If any skin spot is changing in size, shape, or color, it could be dangerous. If you notice any spots changing, itching, or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist for an evaluation.

The American Academy of Dermatology wants everyone to have a fun and skin safe summer season. If you would like to learn more about skin cancer or how to perform a self-skin exam, check out SpotSkinCancer.org.