Melanoma Monday: 10 Lifesaving Tips

Today — Monday, May 7th — is Melanoma Monday. Melanoma Monday is a vital day to increase awareness of the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Throughout the United States dermatologists are hosting educational events and free skin cancer screenings to help increase public knowledge about this insidious skin cancer. In Minnesota, Dr Mohiba Tareen is kicking off Melanoma Monday with a free skin cancer screening and lecture on skin cancer to Roseville’s senior citizen community.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. If caught early, skin cancer is 99% curable. Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is particularly aggressive as 68,000 Americans found last year. Surgery may provide cure to 95% of melanoma patients. However, when melanoma is diagnosed in its advanced stages, average survival is less than one year.

What makes melanoma devastating is that it impacts young people in the prime of their lives. Melanoma is now one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among young adults in their 20 s and 30s. Furthermore, melanoma rates have risen six fold in young women ages 18- 39. Perhaps more frightening, although there is a higher incidence of melanoma among women, melanoma is more deadly in men. Men have higher rates of aggressive and life threatening melanomas — likely because they are caught in later stages.

Darker skin and ethnic individuals are not immune to this type of skin cancer. Melanoma may develop wherever the body has pigment cells- including the eye, oral, and vaginal mucosa, and the nail beds. In fact, Bob Marley, the noted reggae singer, succumbed to melanoma at the young age of 36 from a melanoma that developed on his toenail. Ethnic skin individuals should be particularly cautious of irregular lesions on the nails, palms, and soles as these are statistically more likely to develop into melanoma in darker skin types.
As the national WebMD expert dermatologist, Dr. Mohiba Tareen recommends:

10 Key Steps to Avoiding Melanoma

1.  Broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30
2. Avoid the strong midday sun from 11 am to 2 pm
3.  Always wear hats and sunglasses – be trendy and safe!
4.  Sun protective clothing such as swim shirts and rash guards – particularly in young children
5.  Avoid tanning beds at all times
6.  Take 30 seconds each month to do skin checks by looking at the front and back of your body (including the nails, palms and soles) — if anything looks different or abnormal, see your dermatologist.
7.  Yearly skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist
8. Regularly consult with an eye doctor in order to detect melanomas that develop deep within the eye
9. When you see the dentist, ask to be evaluated for any irregular lesions in the oral mucosa
10. Women should ask their gynecologist to be extra vigilant about atypical lesions in the vulvar and vaginal area

In some areas of the country, there is a 4-6 month wait to see a dermatologist. Dr. Tareen stresses that this is too long- it may mean the difference between life and death for a rapidly changing melanoma. Noted NYC dermatologist Dr. Shilesh Iyer agrees that even in his high-profile practice, a concerned patient can obtain an appointment within 1 week. “The absolute key to skin cancer is early detection and cure,” Tareen adamantly states.

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