Written by: Dr. Zeena Al-Dujaili
On average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. This disease claims the lives of 10,000 Americans every year, but when it is caught early, survival rates can be more than 90 percent. Although the risk of melanoma increases with age, it is also the most common cancer in young women in their 20s and 30s. Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that results from blistering sunburns in childhood and regular, unprotected sun exposure. Melanoma accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, but results in a large majority of skin cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month, so, this is the perfect time to go over the key points in detecting and preventing melanoma.
It is important that you have a dermatologist check your skin once a year and that you perform monthly self–skin checks. Make sure to check for a funny-looking spot or a change in your skin. When performing a skin check, it is useful to follow the ABCDEs of mole evaluation, looking for Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, change in Diameter larger than 6mm, and Evolution or change in appearance. Melanoma is most likely to present itself on the backs of men and the legs of women, but it can also occur in non-sun-exposed areas, such as the scalp, on the bottoms of the feet or in the eye.
Those with fair skin and a family history of melanoma are most at risk for the disease. It is important to protect yourself by wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, sunglasses, and protective clothing. Also, avoiding peak sun hours (10 AM–2 PM) and UV tanning beds is important in the prevention of melanoma. Studies have demonstrated that women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors. Research has also demonstrated that even people who do not burn after indoor tanning or sun exposure are at an increased risk of melanoma if they tan indoors. While you can’t turn back time, you can take preventative measures from here on out and help spread the message for raising melanoma awareness.
Dr. Zeena Al-Dujaili received her medical degree at Tulane University School of Medicine where she was elected to the national medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha. Following medical school, Dr. Al-Dujaili completed a dermatology residency at Tulane University. Dr. Al-Dujaili then completed a fellowship in Mohs surgery, lasers, liposuction and vein treatments. She also has extensive training and experience in cosmetic dermatology — including neurotoxins, injectable fillers, and chemical peels. A board-certified dermatologist, she is licensed in New Jersey, New York, and Louisiana. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and American College of Mohs Surgery.