hand with sunscreen

Melanoma May! May Is Melanoma Awareness Month, Learn More About Melanoma and Ways to Prevent It

May is Melanoma Awareness Month, a time to shed light on this serious form of skin cancer. Here at Alaska Family Dermatology, we take sun safety and skin health very seriously. Throughout May, we’re committed to empowering you with the knowledge to protect yourself and your loved ones from melanoma.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It arises from pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin. While less common than basal and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. The good news is that melanoma is highly treatable when detected early.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

Anyone can develop melanoma, but certain factors increase your risk:

  • Excessive sun exposure: Sunburns, particularly in childhood, and frequent tanning (including indoor tanning) significantly raise your risk.
  • Fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes: These traits offer less natural protection from UV rays.
  • Atypical moles: Having many moles (more than 50) or unusual moles (asymmetrical, uneven borders, varied colors) increases your risk.
  • Personal or family history of melanoma: If you or a close relative has had melanoma, your risk is higher.

Early Detection Saves Lives

The key to beating melanoma is early detection. Here’s what to look for during regular skin self-exams:

  • Changes in existing moles: Look for any alteration in size, shape, color, or texture.
  • New moles: Be particularly watchful of new moles that appear unusual.
  • Unusual spots: Watch for any suspicious spots, including sores that don’t heal, scaly patches, or red bumps.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection:

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the ABCDE rule for mole checks:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
  • Border: The borders are irregular, jagged, or blurred.
  • Color: The mole has multiple colors (brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue).
  • Diameter: The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 millimeters).
  • Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Schedule a Skin Cancer Screening

In addition to monthly self-exams, schedule regular skin cancer screenings with a board-certified dermatologist like the experts here at Alaska Family Dermatology. We recommend annual screenings, or more often if you have a high risk of melanoma.

Sun Protection: Your Best Defense

Sun protection is your most powerful weapon against melanoma. Here are some essential tips:

  • Seek shade, especially during extended activities in Alaska, where the sun can be more intense
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, including hats with wide brims and sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher generously and reapply every two hours, or more often after swimming or sweating.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Make sun safety a priority and schedule your skin cancer screening today. Together, let’s raise awareness and fight melanoma!

We encourage you to Schedule a Visit if you have any melanoma or skin abnormality concerns.