Friday, August 12, 2011

Appendix: Fun facts about melanoma

And here is the preachy post I promised. Just as a reminder, I am not a doctor. No seriously, not a doctor.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of cancer that originates in our pigment cells. Melanoma is also the most deadliest form of skin cancer. One person dies from melanoma every hour. [1]

How do I recognize melanoma? 

Here is a handy dandy chart the National Health Institute came up with. They made it easy because it is the ABDCE's of melanoma. It's so much more fun when there is an acronym.

You're thinking to yourself, wait a second, there was no E on this chart. The E is a relatively new addition and means "Evolving". Basically, it means if any mole is changing on your skin that is also a sign of skin cancer. See the pamphlet at the bottom of my post for more info on this.

DO make an appointment with the dermatologist if:
  • Your mole looks like any of the melanoma pictures above (or has any characteristics of ABCDs above)
  • Your mole looks different from any other mole on your body (maybe a very different color)
  • Your mole is changing (size, shape, color)
  • Your mole is oozing or bleeding
Especially pay attention to your mole if it is larger size (like over 0.5 cm).

No joke, I have told a person in a hot tub and another person on an elevator they should get a suspicious mole checked out. They probably thought I was crazy, but if they catch any skin cancer earlier, it will be well worth the weird looks I got.

Is tanning really that bad for you?

Yes, dear God, yes. This is probably the biggest misconception my friends and family have that puts them at risk. There are countless studies undeniably linking UV exposure to cancer.

Let me highlight one for you from "The Causes of Skin Cancer: A Comprehensive Review"
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) from sun exposure is the most important cause of skin cancer.
There are countless more studies highlighting the horror that is the legal tanning salons in the United States: one calls for a ban on tanning, another highlights that European tanning beds often give our more UV radiation than is approved for, and another, I don't even need to describe. It is called:  "Ultraviolet Radiation: a hazard to children and adolescents".

Those of you heading on vacation, use sunscreen! Use it every 1 to 2 hours while you are in the sun, especially if you go in the water. I know you won't look as awesome when you come back all pasty, but your skin and body will thank you.

Common places to forget to apply sunscreen: your ears, the top of your head (yes, even those of you with hair should protect the top of your head with a hat or spray sunscreen), your lips, and the top of your feet.

What are some great resources to learn more? 
  • YOUR DOCTOR. I know; crazytalk.
  • National Cancer Institute: Has fantastic detailed information about how melanoma scientifically and medically works, as well as prevention tips, clinical trial information, melanoma statistics and resources for those who have been diagnosed. Also, this is a reputable source of information. No Wikipedia for me. They also have one of the best pamphlets I have ever read about melanoma called "What You Need to Know about Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers. Read it.
  • American Academy of Dermatology has a made a great Body Mole Map to help you look for moles and track any suspicious ones you find. Also, it has good skin protection tips.

[1] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2010. Link. Accessed August 8, 2011.


  1. Great post! Just today I caught myself lecturing a nurse on the ward who was talking about using a tanning bed - gah! Preachy yes, but I can't in good conscience let someone go on to develop melanoma unnecessarily.

    As for telling random strangers to have moles checked out, I know a nurse who was on vacation and had a doctor who happened to be walking by comment on a suspicious mole on her back. It turned out it was indeed melanoma with no evidence of spread. He hopefully saved her life or, at the very least, extended it by making what may have seemed like an awkward comment. To me that's worth it.

    Have you ever seen this video? It's great.

  2. Great idea to do an informative post after your 8 episodes saga.
    And I'm happy to report I'm suspicious-mole-free (at least for the parts I can see =) )

  3. @Solitary Diner - Wow, that video gave me chills! Amazing! I'm going to make a dedicated post to this!

    @Oussama - Victory! Another person safe from melanoma for the moment.

  4. New information regarding the diagnosis of melanoma is constantly becoming available. In the last few years medical studies have become available that have allowed medical practitioners to be more precise with their approach to melanoma diagnosis.

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