May is skin cancer awareness month. The most severe form of skin cancer is melanoma, cancer that starts in the melanocyte cells. These cells are responsible for making melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. It is thought that those with the fairest skin and hair are more prone to melanoma. Due to the lack of melanin in the skin, UV radiation is likely to cause more skin damage.
Melanoma is also very common in persons who have had frequent sun exposure and who have had frequent sunburns in childhood. That is why the use of effective moisturizers with UVA + UVB protection, such as Dormer 211 SPF 15 and SPF 30 along with protective clothing can help protect you from harmful UV rays.
Tanning equipment and tanning beds give off the same harmful UVA and UVB rays as the sun. Those who frequent tanning salons have an increased risk of melanoma.
Check your skin
Frequent checking of your skin before or after a shower is always a good idea. Look for changes in the shape, colour or surface of a mole all over your body. Melanoma can also take the shape of a freckle that is brown or black or other mix of colours including red blue or white. The most common area for melanoma to appear is on the lower extremities or the back, but may also appear on the hands, soles of feet and nail beds.
Are you at risk?
You may be at risk for melanoma if you have a family history of melanoma, usually an immediate family member. A personal history of non-melanoma skin cancer also increases the risk. Taking immunosuppressive medications may also increase your risk.
What can you do?
If you are concerned that the discoloration on your skin could be melanoma, see your family doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible. If melanoma is discovered early, it is treatable and survival post-diagnosis is very high.