Melanoma: The deadly risk to fun in the sun

Skin Care

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Mar 26, 2015

Summer fun in the sun can be deadly without the proper precautions. Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your skin when you head outside or to the beach.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Although it accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancer cases, it causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.

Timing is everything when it comes to diagnosing this deadly disease. Thanks to recent advancements in the treatment of melanoma, it is highly treatable if caught early. The problem is, too many melanomas are diagnosed too late. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor regularly for a skin cancer screening.

Melanoma on the rise

Despite these advances in medicine, the numbers speak for themselves. Nearly 8,000 Americans die from melanoma every year and more than 99,000 are diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The incidence of melanoma has been on the rise for decades, and accounts for the highest number of skin cancer-related deaths each year by far,” said Lance Cowey, MD, co-medical director of the Skin Malignancy Research and Treatment Center at Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center. “The silver lining is that there have been a number of advances in treatment, as well as innovative clinical trials that are giving new hope to many patients.”

Melanoma risk factors

  • Age. People under age 45 account for about one out of four melanoma cases
  • Ethnicity. Caucasian Americans are 20 times more likely to develop melanoma than African Americans
  • Skin health. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily and those with abnormally shaped moles are at higher risk
  • Family history. People with family members who have had melanoma are at higher risk
  • UV exposure. A major risk factor is ultraviolet light, either from the sun or tanning beds

Keeping an eye on spots and moles

Using the ABCDEU method will help you determine if you should have your spot or mole looked at.

Getting a suspicious spot or mole checked out by a doctor is the key to being able to cure melanoma. Waiting too long can be dangerous.

Time for a skin check? Find a dermatologist near you.

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