While the rate of many types of cancer is declining, the risk for developing skin cancer is increasing at an alarming rate.
Today’s young adults are six times more likely to develop skin cancer than adults 40 years ago. The most dramatic increase is seen in young women in their 20s and 30s. What’s the reason behind this increase? It seems to be growing popularity of activities such as sun-tanning and tanning beds. While the media may say tanned skin is beautiful, the consequences of getting and maintaining tanned skin can be deadly.
Maybe it’s time to return to the Victorian days when pale skin was considered beautiful. Or maybe it’s time for you to understand the risks associated with excessive sun exposure and to do something about it melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer and the leading cause of skin-disease-related death when.
Anyone who soaks up the sun can wind up with skin cancer, but the following risk factors make you more likely to get melanoma:
Been spending more time in the sun than you ought? Then you may be wondering how to know if your skin is showing signs of melanoma. An unusual mole, lump, sore, or growth on your skin could signal skin cancer or melanoma, as could a growth or sore that bleeds or a change in skin color.
To give your skin a quick melanoma check, check out any moles on your body and remember the alphabet.
Asymmetrical. The area isn’t symmetrical. Rather, one side is shaped differently than the other.
Border. The edges of the area are irregular.
Color. The spot or sore isn’t one uniform color, but varies with shades of brown and black or even red, blue, or white.
Diameter. The area is usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser (6 millimeters in diameter).
Evolution. The area changes in appearance.
If you notice any of these symptoms anywhere on your body, call your doctor. Skin cancer, like any cancer, is most successfully treated when found early. Those older than 40 years of age should undergo an annual skin inspection by a physician and those aged 20 to 40 should have one performed every three years. On top of your doctor’s examinations, examine your own skin monthly.
For hard-to-see body parts, either use a hand mirror or have someone inspect for you. Keep in mind that melanoma can be found anywhere on the skin - even on the palms, soles of the feet, or under the nails. Though rare, it can even develop in the iris or retina of the eye, in the mouth, and even in internal body parts.
If your physician suspects cancer, a biopsy may be required to determine whether cancer is indeed present. In the event melanoma is present, surgery is often necessary to remove the cancer and surrounding tissue. A computed tomography (CT) scan may also be performed to determine if the cancer has spread. If it does spread - which it does quickly, chances of a cure are slim. In this case, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation treatments, and additional surgery may be required.
Sound serious? It is. The surest way to avoid getting skin cancer is to limit your exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. Apply sunscreen to all exposed body parts and reapply sunscreen frequently, even on cloudy days or in the winter. When applying, don’t forget your ears and feet.
Additionally, avoid tanning beds and sun lamps, as research has shown that those who frequently use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma.