While melanoma makes up only 4 percent of skin cancer cases, it is the most lethal type, accounting for approximately 8,000 deaths annually. Fortunately, there’s good news. Skin Self Examinations (SSEs) — a simple step-by-step, early detection approach — can reduce up to 63 percent of these deaths, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
The AAD recommends taking photographs of suspicious areas to determine a baseline so that you can effectively monitor any changes. The “ABCD” approach can then be applied:
A mismatch of expectation and realization. That is said to be a reason why sunscreen use is a risk factor in melanoma. Researcher Brian Diffey, of the UK’s Newcastle General Hospital, said the SPF numbering system on sunscreens is misleading people into believing the numbers actually indicate how much longer it takes the skin to burn than unprotected skin. His comments find merit as Americans went from spending $18 million on sunscreen products in 1972 to $500 million in 1996, while risk of melanoma has gone from 1 in 1,500 people in 1930 to an expected 1 in 75 this year.
Half of all cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, develops from moles. The average Caucasian American adult has 24 moles. A 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed that the number, size and appearance of moles all affect the risk of melanoma. Any mole that changes shape, color or size; any sore that doesn’t heal; any persistent patch of irritated skin; or any new growth, may be a sign of cancer and require professional attention.