Since May is melanoma awareness month, I want to talk about #1: Tanning. I still remember my best friend in college sunbathing every weekend with a can of Crisco at her side. This particular friend is no dummy either - she went to Stanford undergrad, blew away her LSATs, and went on to attend and graduate from Yale law school. But, for some reason, she couldn't get it through her head that sunbathing IS dumb. Sunbathing with Crisco on is just...spectacularly stupid. Sorry Lisa, I love you, but there it is.
Let's start with the basics: What is melanoma?
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. The disease begins in skin cells called "melanocytes." These cells make melanin, which gives skin its pigment and also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun’s UV rays. When skin receives too much UV light, melanocytes may begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous melanoma.
How do you spot Melanoma?
In many cases, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma can also appear on the body as a new mole. Most melanomas have a black or blue-black area and may appear abnormal.
For men, melanoma often appears between the shoulders and hips, on the head, and the neck. Women most commonly find melanoma on the lower legs, palms of hands, on the soles of feet, and even under the fingernails or toenails. Although these are the most common places on the body for melanomas to appear, they can appear anywhere on the skin, so it is important to perform routine self-examinations and get an annual head-to-toe skin check from your dermatologist.
And if you find something that looks suspicious, don't hesitate to contact your doctor.
Did you know that...
* UV exposure is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It is also greatest in the summer, at higher altitudes, and nearer the equator.
* Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate light clouds, mist and fog.
* Fresh snow reflects back about 85 percent of the sun’s rays; water reflects back about 5 percent of the sun’s rays; concrete reflects back 10 to 12 percent of the sun’s rays.
* Protecting your skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78 percent.
* Studies have confirmed that sun exposure is responsible for the development of at least two-thirds of all melanomas.
Please, what people don't know CAN kill them. Spread the word to your friends, family, and loved ones about the dangers of melanoma. Wear a full-spectrum sunscreen of AT LEAST SPF 30 every day, whether you're inside or outside. Put this on your children and loved ones as well. If they don't like the greasiness of sunscreen, there are powder sunscreens (we use the Colorescience brand at Pavia) that work as well. My husband won't let me put on a cream sunscreen, but a powder one he will tolerate.
This disease accounts for more than 65,000 new cases, and claims more than 11,000 lives each year. But with early detection, this disease can be stopped.
I wish I'd known to say these things to Lisa. I think I still will call her up and tell her.