By now, most of us are well aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen, not just to help prevent premature aging and skin damage, but also to help avoid basal and squamous cell skin cancers. But we all need to be more aware of the most serious kind of skin cancer — melanoma.
The most dangerous form of skin cancer
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 9,000 Americans die of melanoma every year; the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that close to 80,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year. For the last three decades, melanoma rates have been rising, becoming one of the most common cancers among young women. And though it’s more rare than the other types of skin cancer, melanoma causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Protecting yourself from melanoma
With those kinds of statistics, you might be surprised to know that research shows that up to 90% of melanoma cases are preventable. And like all skin cancers, it’s treatable, especially when caught early. Anyone can get melanoma, but it’s important to know the risks, especially the ones that apply uniquely to you.
People with fair skin are at the highest risk
People of any skin color can develop melanoma, but those with pale complexions are at greater risk. Pale skin contains less melanin, the natural pigment that gives your skin, hair, and eyes their color — and acts as a natural layer of sun protection.
People with a history of sunburn have a major risk
Often people with lighter skin are more likely to have had more sunburns due to their low levels of melanin, further increasing their melanoma risk.
People with irregular moles or ones that change are at greater risk
You and your doctor should work together to check your moles regularly for:
- Asymmetrical shape
- Irregular borders
- Multiple colors
- Large diameter
- Weird changes
- New spots or moles
You can get melanoma anywhere, from head to toe