As you probably know, my daughter Jaime was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 20 years old. We had never heard of it before the doctor said those three words that started our nightmare ... "Jaime has melanoma." It took her life ... and along with it, most of mine ... 9 years later. Since her death, I have been obsessed with trying to keep other families from the pain that ours has been through. So please bear with me ... I'm going to throw a lot of facts at you, but these facts could save your life or that of someone special to you.
Your best chance of beating melanoma is not getting it in the first place
As horrific as melanoma is, it can, in many cases, be prevented.
- Be sun smart.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10am - 2pm. Remember that water, snow, and sand reflect damaging UV rays to increase your chances of sunburn.
- Apply sunscreen with a broad-spectrum (with both UVA and UVB protection) sun-protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply 1 oz (a shotglass full) 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every 2 hours, even if it's cloudy (UV rays travel through clouds), or after swimming or sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. When they are older than 6 months, you can use sunscreen on them.
- Seek shade when your shadow is shorter than you are.
- Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!: Slip on clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses.
- Examine your skin often and take note of any changing or new moles.
- NEVER, never, never use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps. According to the World Health Organization, ultraviolet radiation is a proven human carcinogen. First exposure to tanning beds before age 35 increases melanoma risk by 75%. Of the 28 million people using tanning beds in US each year, 2.3 million are teens.
Early detection could save your life
And if not prevented, it can be caught early, which means it is easier to treat and hopefully stop in its tracks. Know the ABCDEs of melanoma. Unlike all other cancers, melanoma is visible on the skin, making it easier to detect in the early stages. Warning signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or appearance of a new growth on the skin. Any mole that itches or bleeds warrants a trip to your physician ASAP. However also be aware that these are only guidelines and melanoma can appear entirely different from the ABCDEs, particularly pediatric melanoma. See your doctor with any skin lesion that concerns you. Monthly skin self-exams and annual skin checks by your doctor are important as well.
Melanoma facts you should know
- Melanoma is the most deadly type of cancer of the skin; it's not "JUST" skin cancer.
- Melanoma is the 5th most common type of new cancer diagnosis in men and the 7th most common in women.
- Every hour someone in the US dies from melanoma. Jaime’s hour was 1pm, Friday, March 16, 2007.
- Although the incidence of most cancers is declining, melanoma diagnoses continue to rise significantly, at a rate faster than that of any of the 7 most common cancers.
- The incidence rate for invasive melanoma is highest in Caucasians, who are almost 30 times more likely to develop melanoma than African Americans. However, melanoma can affect anyone, no matter their age, sex, race, religion, or political beliefs. It is an equal opportunity cancer! Although melanoma is uncommon in people of color, when it is diagnosed it is frequently fatal for these populations because the melanoma is more advanced at time of diagnosis.
- Melanoma is most common in men older than 50, more common than colon, prostate, and lung cancer. Men aged 65 and older are more than twice as likely to develop melanoma as women in the same age group.
- Women younger than 39 have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer and are twice as likely to develop melanoma as men.
- Melanoma is now the most common cancer in the 25-29 age group and second most common for 15-29 year olds.
- Melanoma accounts for about 3% of all pediatric cancers; 90% of pediatric melanoma cases occur in girls 10-19.
- 76,100 new cases of invasive melanoma and 63,770 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2014; about 200,000 new cases are diagnosed worldwide each year. According to the World Health Organization Report, about 46,000 melanoma-related deaths occur worldwide each year; 9,710 US deaths are expected from melanoma in 2014.
- 1 in 52 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime; 1 in 5 will develop skin cancer.
- Melanoma can develop on any skin surface, even where “the sun don't shine” and in the eyes, nails, and soles of the feet.
- Excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds increases your risk for melanoma as well as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. About 86% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
- The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99%; the survival falls to 15% for those with advanced disease.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, the estimated total direct cost associated with the treatment of melanoma in 2010 was $2.36 billion in the United States
Risk factors you need to think about
- Just one severe, blistering sunburn can double a person's chance of developing melanoma later in life.
- Workplace exposure to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds, or radium increases your risk.
- Exposure to tanning beds before age 35 increases a person's risk of developing melanoma by 75%.
- People with fair skin that freckles easily, blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes are at greater risk for all three types of skin cancer.
- Anyone who has more than 50 moles or large or unusual moles is at greater risk for melanoma.
- Anyone who has a blood relative who has had a history of melanoma is at increased risk.
- Previous melanoma or the more common types of skin cancers as well as cancers like breast or thyroid can increase your risk.
Don't be blind-sided by melanoma like our family was. Become educated and prevent it from entering your lives!
For more comprehensive information on melanoma, see www.AIMatMelanoma.org
Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)
http://www.facebook.com/jaime.regen.rea (Remember Jaime)
http://www.facebook.com/BanTheBeds (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds)
https://www.etsy.com/shop/sweetpea321 (Jjem Creations)
http://stores.ebay.com/Sweetpea321 (Jjem Creations)