Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And now, a public service announcement

Information about melanoma may not be very interesting to you, but as a local expert, I’m compelled to share it. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

1. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., of which melanoma is the deadliest. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are indeed cancer, but rarely kill. They can be disfiguring, however.

2. The prevalence of melanoma is growing faster than almost all other forms of cancer. Overexposure to the sun is believed to be a major cause of this increase.

3. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, including eyes, scalp, hands and feet. Reggae legend Bob Marley died from metastatic melanoma that first appeared on a big toe.

4. An estimated one in 58 people will develop melanoma. It’s estimated that there will be about 70,000 new cases in the U.S. this year.

5. Most melanoma is caused by exposure on UV light and sunlight. It takes only one blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double your chance of developing melanoma later in life.

6. If you use a tanning bed, you might as well start smoking too. The Melanoma Research Foundation does not endorse this statement, but I threw it in anyway. A regular user of tanning beds is eight times more likely to develop melanoma than someone who never used them. Here's a PSA that's just been released on this subject that will tear your heart out.

7. Unlike all other cancers, melanoma is visible on the skin, making it easier to detect in the early stages. Check your skin regularly. If you haven’t been to a dermatologist for a baseline exam, do it now.

8. Most melanoma is curable in the early stages with a survival rate of more than 90%. This disease does not have to be the scourge that it's become. No one should have to die from a tan.

Every form of cancer has its peculiarities. Melanoma is nothing special in that regard. My takeaway message is this is a mostly preventable form of cancer, which is why a public service announcement like this may do you or someone you love some good.

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