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Facts About Melanoma Skin Cancer

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Lela is a certified medical laboratory scientist (ASCP) with 38 years of experience in the medical industry and blood banking.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin is the largest organ of our body. Our skin protects everything inside. Without the incredible properties of our skin, we would not exist.

The most common form of cancer is skin cancer and 3.5 million people in the United States are affected. More than two million new cases are diagnosed each year. This is more than the combined number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. One in five Americans will have to contend with skin cancers and/or melanomas.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This is followed by squamous cell cancer of the skin. Non melanoma skin cancers will kill 3,010 people in the Unite States this year (according to 2012).

Increasing by 800 percent in women and 400 percent in men in the last 40 years, melanoma of the skin has begun killing one person every 57 minutes. Melanoma accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Exposure to the UV rays of the sun causes 86 percent of melanomas.

Just one blistering sunburn as a child can double a person's susceptibility to melanoma skin cancer. Five sunburns at any age is enough to double a person's chances of getting skin cancers and melanomas.

Indoor tanning is also a known carcinogen for skin cancers. Tanning beds have the same carcinogen risk as cigarettes, solar radiation and plutonium.

Caucasians, especially fair skinned people, are at the highest risk of skin cancers, but it is not unheard of in African-Americans and may be harder to detect in dark skinned individuals. All other races of the world are known to be affected by skin cancers.

Children are at greater risk than adults. Children should have sun protection at all times. After age 20, their risk is somewhat reduced but definitely not eliminated.

Death Rates for Melanoma Skin Cancers

Melanoma and other skin cancers world map

Melanoma and other skin cancers world map

Descriptions of Skin Cancers

Type of skin cancerDescriptionTreatment Options

Actinic Keratosis (AK)

crusty or scabby growths considered to be precursors of skin cancers

Topical creams

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

look like open sores, red patches, shiny bumps or scars

biopsy, micro-surgery, other surgery

Dysplastic Nevi (unusual moles)

Odd looking moles, not melanomas

Have each one mapped by a dermatologist and get regular skin checkups

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

red, scaly patches in the upper layer of the epidermis, non healing scabby patches

biopsy, surgical removal is highly recommended


Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma

surgical intervention is the first treatment followed by chemotherapy, laser therapy, radiation therapy and other types of cancer treatments

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

Melanoma Warning Signs

Any suspicious mole or skin damage (that never heals) can be a skin cancer. People at higher risk for skin cancers should be checked early and often. Once a year is not too frequent. Skin cancers may be easy to see or they may be hidden, so an exam by a dermatologist is recommended.

The ABCDEs of melanoma:

  • A is for asymmetry - the area has irregular borders, it's not a smooth shape
  • B is for border - the edges are uneven, scalloped or notched
  • C is for color - melanomas tend to be two or even three toned
  • D is for diameter - compare the size to a pencil eraser (6 mm) is about the size when they are first discovered
  • E is for evolving - melanomas will change over time or develop bleeding, itching or crusting

Always have skin areas checked if you are slightly suspicious. The sooner a skin cancer is detected, the sooner it can be cured.

Laying in the Sun Causes Skin Cancer!

Even though it feels good, it's a good idea to limit your time in the sun.

Even though it feels good, it's a good idea to limit your time in the sun.

The Sun Belt of the Unites States

How do You Get Skin Cancers?

Becoming a sun worshiper is the best way to get skin cancer. Some people are addicted to tanning beds. They are at a higher risk of developing skin cancers. Those born with fair skin and light colored eyes are more susceptible to problems with their skin. People with a lot of moles on their body are at a higher risk.

There is very little you can do to prevent skin cancers if you are in a high risk group. The best you can do is prevent the cancers from starting. The younger you start, the better your chances of success. But don't throw up your hands if you are older. Learn to deal with skin problems and prevent skin cancers.

How do You Prevent Skin Cancers?

  • Stay out of the sun! The most brutal rays occur between 10 AM and 4 PM. In the 'Sun Belt' you should add an hour on each side for more safety. So if you must go outside, do so very early in the morning or late in the evening. Watch the sunrise and set, but don't picnic at noon.
  • Never use a tanning bed. This is concentrated skin carcinogen in a box. How much fun is it to lie in a tanning bed anyway?
  • Make it a habit to wear hats, scarves or caps when outdoors. Always wear UV protection eye wear. Wear dense fabrics to block out the sun.
  • Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 to 50 with UVA and UVB blocking protection. Sunscreens should be used year round, not just in summer. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours if you are in and around water.
  • Keep infants and young children out of the sun as much as possible. Sun damage is cumulative and if sunny activities are limited as a youngster, they will have healthier skin as they age.
  • If you are at high risk for skin cancers, get a body map and do a monthly self exam. Visit your dermatologist for a yearly checkup.
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© 2012 Lela

Comments - Have you had an experience with skin cancer?

H Lax on October 25, 2012:

That would be an awesome invention and a big life saver.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 25, 2012:

It's a shame that the sun is so harmful while at the same time so life sustaining.

Some company should make a liquid shield that sprays on without any harmful ingredients. That would be nice. I've tried the spray on lotions and they suck so far.

H Lax on October 25, 2012:

Thanks for the info, I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma a few years back. It had not metasticized. It started out as a little pimple and then more began surrounding it. I knew pretty quick that "something wasn't right" so I went to get it checked out. They cut it out which didn't hurt a bit and it was outpatient. So far, it hasn't returned. I used to go in the sun kind of a lot when I was a lot younger but have been staying out of the sun mostly for about 20 years now. Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 13, 2012:

Skin cancer killed my great uncle and is now affecting my brother. I watch my skin carefully. But cancer is a disease of our environment and aging. Not a whole lot can be done about it.

Just live as healthy as possible everyone!

LABrashear from My Perfect Place, USA on October 13, 2012:

Important information! A few years ago a woman I went to school with passed away from melanoma. Very sad. Thanks for writing about this.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on October 13, 2012:

Dave just went to the doc so I could have them check a mole (it changed color just a bit). Doc says it's fine but to keep checking for changes.

He told me on speaker phone to MAKE SURE everyone wears SPF tanning lotion.

I knew those tanning beds were gonna be bad for ya. When they first came out I was about 15...I decided to wait and see what happened long term....nice for all those people to be guinea pigs, huh?

DragonBallSuper on October 13, 2012:

thank you for this very informative hub!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 12, 2012:

Yes, it's true. My brother was just diagnosed with melanoma too. If it hasn't metasticized, he may be ok. But he is 70 now and has been in the sun his entire life. He worked on shrimp boats and tug boats, plus loved to surf. He says he's leaving a good looking corpse.

Well aren't we all?

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 12, 2012:

Melanoma kills one person every 57 minutes, Lela? That's a scary statistic. Had no idea it was so prevalent. Thanks for this well-written exposition on skin cancer.

Ruchira from United States on October 12, 2012:

Informative hub, Lela.

voted up as useful

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 12, 2012:

It is a serious problem and more research needs to be done on these types of cancers. Thank you for stopping by, Christoper.

Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on October 12, 2012:

I think that if the fashion for fair skin came back, it would do a lot to reduce the incidence of skin cancer, at least in Caucasians. It looks better as well.

Thanks for helping to make this serious problem better known.

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