What You Don’t know About Melanomas Can Harm You

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You may have heard of melanomas, but chances are also good that you don’t know everything you need to stay safe –it’s a tricky disease. Many people associate melanomas with moles that go bad, especially in fair-skinned people who don’t use sunscreen, but it’s not quite that simple.

It’s one of the most common cancers in young adults.

Melanoma may be the least common skin cancer, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it’s the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25 to 29 and the second most common cancer for people aged 15 to 29. Experts believe this is a result of tanning bed use.

It affects people of all skin tones.

It’s true that people with more pigment in their skin have a much lower risk of skin cancer because they have more protection from the sun, but that doesn’t give them a free pass to skip sunscreen. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — the most common types of skin cancer and those most strongly linked to sun exposure — rarely happen in people of color, and melanoma is also rare, but when it does happen, it’s mostly on palms and soles.

It may not develop in an existing mole.

Some pathologists believe that bad moles turn into melanoma. There are also some who believe that you can have a bunch of moles and those will be fine, but you can get a melanoma in another spot.

It can happen in people with few or no moles.

Yes, melanoma symptoms include a change in the shape, size or color of a mole and the more moles you have, the greater your risk for melanoma. But even people who don’t have a lot of moles are at risk for melanoma.

It may not be a mole at all.

Melanomas can also look like a bruise that doesn’t heal or a dark streak under a fingernail or toenail.

It can appear in areas not exposed to the sun.

Like between your fingers and toes, and on your underarms, butt and genitals

It’s booming in older adults, too.

Melanoma is also on the rise in Baby Boomers, who didn’t have access to modern sunscreens in childhood, and grew up during the time where people would literally lay out in the sun with reflectors and baby oil. For people in their 50s and 60s who had a lot of sun exposure when they were younger, a melanoma diagnosis is the manifestation of genetic mutations to their melanocytes, cells that produce the skin pigment melanin.

It’s the deadliest form of skin cancer.

While basal and squamous cell carcinomas are more common than melanoma, they have higher survival rates. According to the AAD, one American dies from melanoma every hour. In 2014, it’s estimated that more than 9,700 deaths in the United States will be attributed to melanoma.

It’s highly treatable when caught early.

The earlier you catch a melanoma, the better the survival. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes (stage III) is 98 percent, according to the AAD. We may be seeing higher numbers of melanoma cases because doctors are better able to diagnose stage 0 melanoma, or melanoma in situ, where there are visible changes on the skin’s surface but cancer has developed only within the epidermis. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends yearly skin cancer exams, which can help catch melanoma early.

It doesn’t only strike sun-worshipers or tanning bed users.

People with a family history of melanoma can be more prone to it than the rest of the population. Reports have shown that having a first-degree relative with melanoma — that is, a parent, brother or sister — can increase your lifetime risk by 10 to 15 percent. That’s why it’s so important to know your specific skin cancer history.

Sunscreen anti-aging benefit…A 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that daily sunscreen use helps prevent premature aging caused by sun exposure, including wrinkles and dark spots.

Wear sunscreen every day, like it’s your job.   

Make it a daily regimen, like brushing your teeth

From Health.com

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