May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and today is Melanoma Monday, a day focused on raising awareness of the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“Many people don't realize how deadly melanoma is. Twenty Americans will die every day of melanoma. So it's a life-threatening disease,” says, Skin Care Specialist Maral Skelsey, Director of Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington in Chevy Chase Maryland.
Skelsey says it is a common misconception that being out in the sun is the only way to get vitamin D.
"In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology did a survey and found out, about 70% of the respondents all say the same thing that you need to get out in the sun to get sufficient vitamin D and that is actually not true. There are much safer ways to get vitamin D through diet and through supplements. Vitamin D is very important for bone health and for overall health. The sun which is a known carcinogen is not the best way to get sufficient vitamin D. Get it through your diet.
Alex Gupman knows the dangers of the sun far too well as he currently is recovering from melanoma surgery.
My biopsy came back positive for melanoma. Initially, it was just this little spot on your ear, so not a big deal. Then as time when on, it turned out to be melanoma that spread in a very short amount of time. It was already at stage 3.
Alex had always put sunblock lotion on while outdoors but never thought of the odd locations like behind his ears.
Alex Gupman says, "It had spread into my neck and they ended up having to remove most of my ear and then they rebuilt my ear. They then had to go in and remove the lymph nodes in my neck. The big impact there is it's near nerves so they nicked a nerve, and I now have no feeling on that side of my face. It makes shaving a little difficult".
Besides wearing more hats and applying sunblock everywhere his skin is exposed to the sun daily, Alex has another suggestion. Look at your spots, see any change or any abnormality, that's when you should call. A mole can develop in a very short amount of time. Everyone's spot will look different but it's really checking to see if something has changed in shape or color. That's when you need to pick up the phone and call your doctor."
Since skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early. The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams and look out for the ABCDEs — the warning signs of melanoma:
Exposure to ultraviolet light — from the sun and indoor tanning devices — is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma.
Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate the clouds.
Tanning — both indoors and out — can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.
Using tanning beds before age 35 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 59%, and the risk increases with each use.
Women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors.
Everyone is at risk of skin cancer — regardless of age, gender, or race.
Skin cancer in patients with skin of color is often diagnosed in its later stages when it’s more difficult to treat.
People with skin of color are prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, groin, and the inside of the mouth. They may also develop melanoma under their nails.
To protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends following these tips whenever spending time outdoors:
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. To learn more about skin cancer prevention and detection visit spotskincancer.org.