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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dear 16 Year Old Me - Preventing Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the epitome of the adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Even if you don't watch the video please know that along with prevention, early detection is crucial: Removing the melanoma before it spreads is the key to survival. If an existing mole changes color, size or shape or feels different or a new suspicious mole appears have your doctor check it out ASAP.


The David Cornfield Memorial Fund in Canada produced this video to encourage teenagers not to allow their skin to burn outdoors or in tanning beds because the ultimate price may not be paid with a painful burn at that moment, but years later when a combination of cumulative UV exposure, genetics and other factors can transform a childhood burn into the sixth most commonly diagnosed form of deadly cancer.

Imagine my surprise that as I was working on this post I learned a friend had just been to the memorial service of his friend who had recently passed away because of melanoma. He asked me many questions so I decided to do more than just post the video and wanted to share some basic information about melanoma with you.

Some of the factors Doctors believe may put you at greater risk for melanoma are:
  • If you are fair complected
  • Naturally have red or blonde hair
  • Have blue or green eyes
  • Have a family history of melanoma
  • Ever suffered blistered sun burns especially as a child or teenager
  • Used to or currently spend excessive amounts of time tanning with natural sunlight or in tanning beds
  • Take certain medications
  • If you have more than 50 moles
  • Don't use sunscreen
According to the experts the best ways to prevent melanoma are to:
  1. Prevent sunburns while young, particularly those that cause the skin to blister
  2. Avoid sun exposure between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM
  3. Avoid tanning beds
  4. Wear a hat and cover up when possible outdoors - even lightweight cotton shirts in summer are better than bare skin
  5. Use a broad spectrum 15 spf sunscreen or higher
  6. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure
healthy-moles

Healthy Moles

It was estimated that in the US there would be 68,130 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2010 that would cause 8700 fatalities. The saddest thing about this is that according to the experts the majority of these cases could have been prevented with proper precautions when these patients were younger and many of the fatalities could have been treateable with early detection.

To create this post I also learned that I should break out a hand mirror and inspect all of my moles preferably every month or at the very least every 6-8 weeks, something I've never done before but will start to do now.

melanoma-moles
Yes, I made you cartoons of malignant melanomas because they weren't quite as creepy looking as photos of the real thing. 

There are many variables in the way melanoma might look. Sometimes there are visual cues and sometimes a mole can look healthy but it isn't. Melanoma moles can also be located in areas that aren't exposed to the sun like inside your mouth and in your private areas and places you wouldn't expect like inside of your eyes and on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

But the news isn't all bad. Discovered early, melanoma responds very well to treatment and survival rates are higher than in many other forms of cancer so don't wait and don't be afraid to have your doctor check any suspicious moles as quickly as possible.

Thank you to Eric B. a co-SMART (Social Media Active Response Team) member at Be The Match for sharing the Dear 16-year-old Me video.

To learn more, here are some of the best resources I found online:

www.melanoma.com
www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma
www.dcmf.ca
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanoma
Sun exposure in a nutshell: alluring but dangerous



Disclaimer: The information and suggestions on this site are just that and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult a physician for any formal advice regarding the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.


Information on any third party links located on this website are only verified by the original source.

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