Three of my friends have experienced concern about suspicious moles or some sort of pre-cancerous spots on their skin. I’ve been fortunate in avoiding the same conditions even though I have “fair” skin. There is cause for concern because melanoma skin cancer, once started, is more likely to grow and spread.
Even though melanoma is less common than some of the other types of skin cancer, it is perhaps the most well-known form due to publicity about the condition. There are risk factors to consider when attempting to prevent melanoma. The most common include age, fair skin, light eyes, several moles, family history, gender, and race. It’s wise to keep these factors in mind when going outdoors in the sunshine.
My physician is a partner in melanoma prevention and has passed along some good advice about skin cancer concerns. He said I should pay extra attention because I suffered a very severe sunburn 14 years ago, which ramped up my risk factor.
First on the list is limiting exposure to the Sun and other ultraviolet light sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps. In fact, most dermatologists recommend against any use of tanning beds. The American Cancer Society says, “Tanning bed use has been linked with an increased risk of melanoma, especially if it is started before a person is 30.” That means it’s also important to take extra care to protect your children from the Sun.
There are certain types of moles that may develop into melanoma. If you have several, bring them to your doctor’s attention so she or he can observe them or suggest removal if they appear to be precancerous. Some forms of melanoma start with moles, however most do not. If in doubt, check with your physician.
If you have a weakened immune system, pay closer attention to your skin. Some people who take meds to suppress their immune system are at increased risk. If you’ve had an organ transplant or are under chemotherapy, the melanoma risks are higher. The same goes for anyone diagnosed as HIV positive and people who have autoimmune diseases.
There are a few easy to follow ways to help avoid skin cancer risks. It’s easy to remember to wear a shirt and a hat. Smooth on sunscreen lotion, making sure to check the expiration date on the bottle before use. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses. Stay in the shade, if possible. Sun lamps and tanning beds are to be avoided.
Basically, common sense and moderation are the easiest ways to help prevent melanoma.