Understand the Symptoms of Melanoma

A holiday called “Melanoma Monday” might not sound like a ton of fun, but it might just save your life! Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and it affects 1 in every 50 Americans. The American Academy of Dermatology established Melanoma Monday on the first Monday of every May to encourage melanoma prevention. Learn what the symptoms and warning signs of this deadly disease look like, and don’t forget to celebrate Melanoma Monday this year.

What causes Melanoma?

According to The Mayo Clinic, melanoma is often caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from natural sunlight and tanning lamps and beds. Your genetics also play a large part in whether or not you could get melanoma in your life. If your family has a history of melanoma, you could be at increased risk.

Some other risk factors include:

  • Having fair skin.
  • A large history of sunburn.
  • Excessive exposure to UV rays.
  • Your location — people living in higher elevation or closer to the equator experience more direct sunlight, leading to excessive UV exposure.
  • Your skin’s moles.
  • A weakened immune system.

While melanoma affects people of all ages, fortunately it’s very treatable. Since there are many risk factors, it’s difficult to avoid all skin cancer risks, but staying on top of symptoms can help you catch it early before it spreads.

Melanoma symptoms

The first signs of melanoma are typically tied to your skin’s moles. A change in an existing mole or the development of a new mole or growth could be a sign of melanoma. But melanoma doesn’t always begin as a mole, and it doesn’t only happen to parts of your body that see the most sunlight. It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to your skin. Make sure you see your dermatologist quickly if you suspect melanoma may be present.

The Mayo Clinic shares an easy way to judge your skin, called the ABCDE method:

“To help you identify characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers, think of the letters ABCDE:

  • A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
  • B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanomas.
  • C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
  • D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
  • E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.

Cancerous (malignant) moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the changes listed above, while others may have only one or two unusual characteristics.”

-The Mayo Clinic

Melanoma Prevention Tips

It’s always a good idea to practice good sun safety to help lower your risk of skin cancer.

  1. Always wear sunscreen.
  2. Avoid tanning beds and artificial UV light.
  3. Know your skin so you can notice changes.
  4. Avoid the midday sun when possible.
  5. Wear UV-protected clothing.
  6. Help your friends and loved ones.

Be sure to celebrate Melanoma Monday by wearing black and educating yourself and your loved ones about melanoma.

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