Melanoma skin cancer is increasing

Jamie J. Alexander on June 5, 2015

Because I care about my patients, I am passing on the latest CDC information about the increase in melanoma.

The Latest News on Melanoma

More than 65,000 melanoma skin cancers were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2011. People of all skin colors can get skin cancer, although those with lighter skin are at higher risk. Melanoma can be disfiguring, and deadly if not treated early. Deaths increase with age and are higher for men than women. According to the CDC, over 9,000 Americans die of melanoma skin cancer each year.

What are the Risk Factors?

Note that melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin but is most likely to start on the chest and back of men and on the legs of women. The neck and face are also common sites. Most melanoma cells make melanin, so melanoma tumors are usually brown or black. Some melanoma cells do not make melanin. This means that some melanoma tumors are pink, tan or even white.

Melanoma is more likely to spread to other parts of the body faster than basal cell and squamous cell cancers. It is important to catch melanoma early.

Exposure to ultraviolet light rays is a major risk factor. It is common knowledge that sunlight is the main source of UV rays, but not everyone realizes that tanning beds and sun lamps are sources of UV rays. In fact, indoor tanning exposes people to more intense UV rays than the sun.

Here’s a statistic that surprised me. One in three non-Hispanic white women between the ages of 16 and 25 uses indoor tanning each year. This means practice of indoor tanning may lead to melanoma for people you and I know.

What I Want You to Know

The Centers for Disease Control is asking health care providers, including dentists, to warn their patients about indoor tanning.

Please, keep in mind that if you are tempted to tan, it could lead to disfigurement down the road, and you certainly don’t want to die from melanoma. Please follow the sound advice of not using tanning beds and sun lamps. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin to avoid sunburn. Examine yourself in the mirror regularly for new spots on your skin, and schedule an annual skin cancer exam with a dermatologist.

Because we live in Florida, we get used to the sun. But, don’t forget to protect yourself and your children from UV rays. My wife and are vigilant about protecting our two kids. As a health provider, I know all too well the damage that can occur.