Melanoma Myths Debunked

Melanoma myths: debunkedBob Marley was diagnosed with melanoma under one of his toenails, but ignored advice to amputate the toe.  

The untreated cancer spread to his lungs and brain, and four years later, he died at age 36.

Basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma are the three types of skin cancer.  What do you know about melanoma? Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good time to talk about this deadly disease, and how you can protect yourself.

The Dark Skin Myth

“I have dark skin, so I don’t need to worry about melanoma.”

While it is true that those with darker skin are less likely to develop this particular type of skin cancer, it is possible.  Angela J. Lamb, MD is assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She states that those with more pigment in their skin are at a lower risk of skin cancer, but they should still use sunscreen and look for evidence of melanoma on their palms and soles. “I don’t tweak my recommendations based on what the patient looks like,” says Dr. Lamb. “I tell everybody ‘wear sunscreen every day like it’s your job, make it a daily regimen like brushing your teeth.’”

Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but it is 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. Tanning beds seem to be the culprit in these high rates among young people.

Melanoma is a Mole Gone Bad, Right?

Many cases of melanoma are related to moles.  But that’s not all.  Besides looking at changes in shape, size and color in moles, what should we examine?  Melanoma can appear to be a bruise that doesn’t heal, or a dark streak under a fingernail or toenail.  Also, it can appear in the eye,though ocular melanoma is very rare.  Melanoma can also appear in areas that never see sunlight; like between your fingers, toes, in underarms, buttocks, and genitals.

In 2014, there will be an estimated 9,700 deaths in the United States from melanoma.  What can you do to protect yourself? “The earlier you catch a melanoma, the better the survival,” Dr. Lamb says. “It’s directly correlated.” For those whose melanoma is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends yearly skin cancer exams, which can help catch melanoma as early as possible.

And always, always wear sunscreen.  Stop by Brian’s Pharmacies today to pick up one of our many varieties.

 

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