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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Ginnetti-Barrasso

Melanoma Awareness Month

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths.

Warning Signs

A: Asymmetry

Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless  but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That's why it's so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

B: Border

A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

C: Color

Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

D: Diameter

Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E: Evolving

Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.


-- Melanoma is the least common but the most deadly skin cancer, accounting for only about 1% of all cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer death.

--In 2019, it is estimated that there will be 96,480 new cases of melanoma in the United States and 7,230 deaths from the disease.

--57,220 cases of invasive melanoma will occur in males and 39,260 cases of invasive melanoma will occur in females.

--Melanoma is the third most common cancer among women ages 20-39 and the second most common cancer in men ages 20-39.

--In the U.S., melanoma continues to be the fifth most common cancer in men of all age groups.

--10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of melanoma.

--Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in women of all age groups in the U.S., up from being ranked the sixth most common cancer in 2018.

--In the United States, the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

--Melanoma is most commonly diagnosed in non-Hispanic whites, with an annual incidence rate of 27 (100,000), compared to 5 in Hispanics and 1 in African Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

--Incidence rates are higher in women than in men before the age of 50, but by age 65, rates in men double those in women, and by age 80 they are triple.

--In 2019, over 192,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Of these, more than 96,000 will be diagnosed with invasive (Stage I, II, III or IV) melanoma and nearly 96,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma in situ (Stage 0).

--Melanoma is not just skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body – eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, etc.

--In ages 15-29, melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer.

--The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50% in women since 1980.

--Approximately 500 American Children are diagnosed with melanoma each year.

--Nearly 90% of melanomas are thought to be caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight.

--It takes only one blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life.

Indoor & Intentional Tanning Facts

--Indoor tanning devices are proven to cause cancer and have been classified into the highest cancer risk category by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC).

--Exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

--Young people who regularly use tanning beds are 8 times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them.

--Research has found that indoor tanning does not protect against sunburn.

--Having 5 or more blistering sunburns early in life increases one’s melanoma risk by 80%.

To help prevent melanoma, seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds. Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.

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