Melanoma Awareness Month may have just ended, but that was just the beginning. As we continue to inch into summer, it's time we continue to increase conversations about the dangers of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that approximately 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with about 60,000 people being diagnosed each year. Although melanoma accounts for only about 4 to 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, it causes most skin cancer-related deaths. However, if detected and treated in its earliest stages, melanoma is often curable.
Now is the perfect time to compassionately remind your patients that skin cancer is a preventable disease. Simple lifestyle changes and habits will go a long way to preventing skin cancer.
We should encourage our patients to do their best to stay out of the sun, especially during the main sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 on exposed skin, paying special attention to the ears, neck, face, and shoulders. In men, melanoma is most often found on the area between the shoulders and hips or on the head and neck. In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs.
For your patients that are high risk due to fair skin, light hair, or ethnicity, or for patients who have already had a biopsy of a suspicious mole, you can recommend that they learn how to do a self exam using a body map at least every 6 - 8 weeks.
Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation says, “everyone, regardless of skin color, should make staying safe in the sun a priority and incorporate sun protection measures into their daily life.”
It’s easy for patients to become lazy about wearing sunscreen and taking other preventative measures against skin cancer. As Derm PAs, we can take up the banner of May's Melanoma Awareness, and carry these conversations with our patients all the way through summer.
[image by D. Sharon Pruitt]