By Capt. Amanda Laska
Special to GUIDON
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and Monday is Melanoma Monday.
Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer and affects people of all ages and races. The most commonly affected are older Caucasian men.
Melanoma is usually a dark brown or black bump that appears on the skin. It can appear anywhere, including areas protected from sun exposure like the scalp, bottoms of the feet and groin area.
Catching melanoma early is key. If caught early it’s usually curable with a simple procedure to remove. However, all melanoma has the potential to spread to the lymph nodes and even organs inside the body.
It’s important to check your entire body for any moles that are asymmetrical, patches of irregular colored skin or anything that’s changing. If a mole doesn’t go away or you have a growth that hurts, scabs or bleeds take note.
The more common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma affects people of all ages and can appear anywhere on the skin whereas squamous cell carcinoma is more common in older people who’ve had chronic sun exposure. Both types show up as non-healing bumps, scabs that don’t heal, or spots that bleed easily.
People who use indoor tanning beds are at a higher risk for melanoma. Even one exposure increases your risk 20 to 40 times.
Prevention starts with protecting your skin daily with an SPF of at least 30 even if it’s cloudy out. Reapply as necessary throughout the day and make sure your children are protected too.
If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past, it’s important to be seen yearly for a full skin exam. Make sure you take note of any changes of your skin. If you have a spot that’s growing quickly, scabbing or bleeding, call the appointment line and schedule an appointment with your doctor.
(Editor’s note: Laska is a dermatologist at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)