May marks the month of Melanoma Awareness. Unfortunately, even with an extreme effort to increase prevention, Skin Cancer has still continued to rise over the past 30 years. Currently it is reported that one in five Americans will develop Skin Cancer over their lifetime- by 2015 that rate goes up to one in 50 Americans!Frightening!Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. While Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases it causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. The American Academy of Dermatology has estimated that there will be about 139,870 new cases of melanoma in 2014.While it does seem people are taking more serious steps towards sun safety (better sunscreens on the market, more fashionable hats for the beach, regulations on tanning beds, etc) the numbers continue to rise. This is largely in part due to the lack of early detection. We cannot stress enough how important an annual skin check with a dermatologist or medical professional is.It can save your life. Rates among younger women are rising due to a youth spent basking on the beaches, or worse, in a tanning bed and not having their skin checked consistently. Even if still set on enduring harmful UV rays having suspicious spots seen and removed early can make all the difference. If at age 17 you have an undetected melanoma but you didn’t start seeing a professional until your mid 20’s that cancer has had 5-8 years to spread and infect your lymph nodes or worse.
The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes, or other organs, is 98%; however, the five-year survival rates for regional (lymph nodes) and distant (other organs/lymph nodes) stage melanomas are 62% and 15%, respectively.Rates are also rising among elderly men. Most of these patients have spent years in the sun through work, military service or hobbies such as golfing or fishing. 20 years ago it was not encouraged as strongly as today to see a dermatologist routinely, nor was the testing as accurate and simple- therefore resulting in elderly men seeking dermatological care much later in life.
No matter your age, race or lifestyle PLEASE perform skin self exams and consult a professional at least once a year for a skin check. Be smart with your skin! Visit our 2013 Awareness blog for more ways to be sun safe!