Summer’s over but Melanoma isn’t because it’s not just a summer disease. Melanoma sadly kills 1 American every hour… that’s 10,000 deaths a year from a completely preventable disease. Preventing Melanoma is about knowing the facts and not buying into myths that are convenient to believe. So stay tuned for mythbusting of 7 melanoma myths.
My esteemed colleague, Dr. Steven Wang from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and author of the important book “Beating Melanoma: A Five Step Survival Guide,” in a recent article in “Bottom Line Health” discussed 7 myths that I would like to share with you… each of which can increase your risk of Melanoma.
First myth… “Melanoma is a rare disease”.
The facts are as many as 100,000 new cases of Melanoma are diagnosed in this country every year and there is currently a virtual epidemic of Melanoma in white women between the ages of 15 and 39.
Second myth… “You won’t get Melanoma if you avoid the sun”.
Yes, avoiding the sun and even protecting yourself from it can lower your risk of Melanoma but doesn’t eliminate it. One bad sunburn as a child or teen can start a process which results in Melanoma 25 years later despite current sun protection as an adult.
Myth #3… This may be a shocker but… “Sunscreen prevents melanoma!”
The unfortunate reality is sunscreen use HELPS prevent Melanoma but doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it.
Myth#4… “Tanning booths are safer than they used to be”
This one’s easy. Anytime you get a tan regardless of how, it’s because your skin has been damaged by cancer causing UV rays. There is no safe tan… PERIOD. In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people who used tanning salons at least once a week were 55% more likely to get Melanoma. Need I say any more?
Myth #5… “You’re safe in your car”
The reality is regular car window glass lets 70% of the UVA cancer causing rays through the glass to hit your skin. You need broad spectrum sunscreen in the car even if the windows are closed.
Myth #6… Melanoma appears as an ugly black mole.
Actually, many melanomas are neither ugly nor black, but can be lighter shades of tan and brown and can even be less than half the size of a pencil eraser. Look for any spot that’s darker or different from your other moles and know the ABCDE rules for spotting melanoma, which I covered in another episode.
And last, Myth #7… Melanoma is usually fatal.
Fortunately, as a result of more people getting regular skin cancer checks by dermatologists, most melanomas are detected early enough to be cured and for the more advanced ones, we now have new medicines that are significantly increasing survival rates. It’s easy to decrease your risk of this terrible cancer, and early detection results in greater than 95% survival.
So there you have it. 7 melanoma myths. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security by conveniently believing any of the myths I just mentioned. The best defense against getting melanoma is prevention, so make sure to wear sunscreen every day and have annual exams. It’s a matter of life or death. Yours.