It’s time for sunshine, summer fun and skin checks: May is designated as National Melanoma Month and the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday. The American Academy of Dermatology has set aside this day to raise awareness about the deadliest form of skin cancer: melanoma.
Doctors diagnose more than 8,500 skin cancer cases in the U.S. every day. Despite how common skin cancer may be, many of these cases can be severe. One in 50 people will develop malignant melanoma, and 10,000 people die from melanoma every year.
Melanoma awareness especially important for men
Skin cancer incidents, including deadly melanoma cases, are on the rise among men. In fact, men over age 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population. When men reach age 60, their rate of melanoma is twice as high as the rate in women of the same age.
Why the increased risk in men? Yes, women use tanning beds more often — but men tend to spend more time outside without wearing sunscreen, and they are less likely to pay attention to changes in their skin. Men are generally less aware of skin cancer risk factors and less likely to perform skin checks, and therefore, actually have a higher risk of developing the disease as they age.
Watch this clip from NBC’s “Today” show as Matt Lauer and Al Roker learn about the risks they face as men, regardless of age or ethnicity, when it comes to skin cancer:
Why you should do skin checks with a friend
For both men and women, the most common part of the body for malignant melanoma to occur is the back. Performing a skin check alone means you’re most likely missing large parts of your back, even with a mirror. Because the back gets checked less often, melanoma found on the back is often diagnosed at a later phase and is harder to treat.
Performing regular skin checks with a friend or spouse ensures areas you can’t reach or see can be observed.
Use the ABCDE rules to know what to look for when examining each other’s moles, blemishes, birthmarks and skin spots:
A: ASYMMETRY – One half unlike the other half.
B: BORDER- Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C: COLOR – Varies from one area to another.
D: DIAMETER – Take notice of any moles or spots with a diameter larger than a pencil eraser.
E: EVOLVING – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or has changed over time.
Remember the facts about melanoma
- Skin cancer can occur in any skin type and any ethnicity
- In those with darker skin tones, melanoma is often diagnosed significantly later and is often harder to treat, so skin checks are extra important.
- There is no such thing as a “healthy” tan and a “base” tan does nothing to prevent skin damage.
- Tanning beds are a Group 1 carcinogen – the same known causal relationship to cancer as tobacco and arsenic.
Take part in Melanoma Monday with a partner skin check. If you notice anything alarming, make an appointment with your primary care physician.