What is melanoma and why should you care?

Well, as we come out of an unusually cold winter, it is not odd that you would want to leave the memory of winter behind and embrace sunnier and hotter days.

In fact, I am all for it!

However, in our excitement to enjoy the sun, it is important to pay attention to skin conditions that can be triggered because we are over-exposed to the sun.

One such condition is melanoma.

In today’s post, I am going to touch on 7 facts you need to know about melanoma and how you can prevent it from happening to you and your loved ones.

Melanoma Facts: What you need to know

What is it?

A melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is directly related to an over-exposure to the sun.

It happens when the pigment-producing cells in your body- melanocytes- become mutated (and no longer function properly).

How dangerous is it?

While melanoma is a less common type of skin cancer as compared to other types such as basal cell skin cancer, it can be more dangerous.

This is because melanomas are more likely to metastasize (spread) from one area of your skin to other organs.

And this is why melanoma is not a skin condition to be trifled with in the least.

Melanoma is more common in fair skin

While melanoma can happen regardless of race, it is more common in people with fairer complexions.

Which part of the body do melanomas occur?

Melanoma can happen anywhere on the skin but it is more likely to occur on those areas of the skin that are more exposed. For men, melanomas will typically appear on the chest and back. In women, melanomas occur commonly on the legs.

What causes it?

A melanoma is regularly caused by an over-exposure to the UV rays of the sun.

An artificial source of UV rays such as a tanning bed could also result in melanoma.

It is possible however for a melanoma to occur in an area of the skin that is not exposed to the sun.

 What does a melanoma look like?

  • Large brownish or reddish spot. In darker people, it may look like a much darker area of your skin.
  • A mole than changes color, size or bleeds.
  • Sometimes the mole is multi-colored and does not have regular edges.

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your doctor immediately so you can get tested.

What can you do to prevent melanoma?

What can you do to keep this skin cancer away?

  • Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. This usually is between 10am to 4pm.
  • If you need to be out, wear sunscreen containing an SPF level of at least 15. Wear some sunscreen even in the winter!
  • Wear protective clothing, hats, etc to protect yourself from the exposure.
  • Be aware of drugs that make you more sensitive to the sun (yes these exist!). Ask your doctor if any of the drugs you are taking make you more sensitive to sunlight.
  • Avoid tanning beds. I know it’s a popular trend but it is much cheaper to stay cancer-free.
  • If you notice any changes in your skin as I described above, talk to your doctor immediately. It is better to have it ruled out as a harmless mole than to find out the worst later.

So get out there and enjoy the sun as we enter the warmer months. We deserve it!

However, make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions to take great care of your skin to keep melanoma away.

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