Durham, NC- A study published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings revealed over the past 40 years rates of melanoma have increased eight-fold among women and four-fold among men ages 18 to 39.
Melanoma risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light via the sun or tanning bed. The study authors believe tanning beds may be the reason for this dramatic increase, in part because young women frequent tanning salons more than young men.
“You should avoid tanning beds and protect your skin from the sun,” says Paul Mosca, MD, PhD, surgical oncologist at Durham Regional Hospital and the Duke Cancer Center. “Limit exposure to sunlight for long periods by wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen for exposed areas.”
Additional risk factors for developing melanoma include fair skin, family history, genetic predisposition, heavy freckling, a high mole count and a prior history of melanoma.
Melanoma is an aggressive cancer, but the survival rate exceeds 90 percent if detected early. The American Cancer Society suggests performing regular self-exams of your skin. If you notice any of the following it is recommended you see a health professional.
- Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
- Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or there may be patches of pink, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than about ¼ inch (the size of a pencil eraser), but melanomas can be smaller than this.
If your physician agrees the spot looks suspicious, you will likely undergo a simple biopsy to test for melanoma and other skin cancers.
“Depending on the stage and aggressiveness of the melanoma, it may be best treated with surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy drugs or other treatments,” Dr. Mosca says. “Specialists at Durham Regional and all of Duke University Health System help ensure patients with melanoma receive the right treatments at the right time and in a compassionate and collaborative manner.”