Of the seven most common cancers in the United States, Melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing. In fact one person dies from the disease every hour. While it's deadly, it is also very treatable if caught early.
It seems like the sun has been gone for an eternity. While the sun's rays provide plenty of health benefits, spending too much time with our long-lost friend could be extremely damaging to your health.
"We see cancer on a daily basis and most the time luckily it's more of the basal cell and squamous cell but weekly we unfortunately do see melanomas." Said Dr. Valerie Flynn with Avera Dermatology.
One of those cases was Jennifer Schultz. In 2009, Jennifer noticed an abnormal mole on her back and decided to get it checked out. It tested positive for melanoma.
"It kind of took my breath away really I'd never been a tanner ever and had very fair skin but never really spent much time in the sun so it just kind of took my breath away." Said Schultz.
Lucky for Jennifer she found the cancerous mole early and got it removed before it could spread.
"I had another area of my skin that they were concerned about then because I had this melanoma so I ended up having another area where they removed skin so I have two big scars on my back." Said Schultz.
Jennifer was just 27 when she got her diagnosis, but Dr. Flynn says she was a prime candidate for the disease.
"Young women age 25 to 29, melanoma is their number one cancer overall so it's really scary and we think a lot of it is from high-risk behavior like tanning and indoor tanning specifically." Said Dr. Flynn.
In fact tanning beds have shown to increase a person's chances of developing melanoma by 75%. Jennifer says she was never one to lay out by the pool, but since her brush with cancer she's been much more careful.
"I had always been cautious of the sun before but it's made me that much more cautious I don't spend much time outside in the afternoon especially, I wear big hats, and wear sunscreen year round." Said Schultz.
Not every sunburn will lead to melanoma and not every mole should be chopped off. But it's important to know the signs and it's as simple as knowing the first 5 letters of the alphabet.
A: is for asymmetry so if you look at a mole and fold it in half, one half should look equal to the other half.
B: is for border so we like a really crisp border around the mole, if the borders get a little fuzzy or with jagged borders that's concerning.
C: is for coloration so if there are several colors within a mole, especially dark ones, it's probably worth getting checked out.
D: is for diameter so we like a mole to be fairly small, less than the size of a pencil eraser so around 5 millimeters.
E: is evolution or change, so if a mole continues to grow or change see your dermatologist.
Prevention starts with sunscreen and they should be 30 SPF or higher and cover both ultraviolet spectrums. Also make sure you're reapplying throughout the day, especially when you're at the pool.
The message is not that you can't go outside, it's just making sure you're careful when you do.
"I always tell my friends it's really cool to be pale!" Said Schultz.Â@
If you absolutely have to have tanned golden skin, spray tanning is much better for your skin health as it doesn't have those harmful rays.
Mark your calendars, Melanoma Monday is coming up. On May 6th, Avera Dermatology will be offering free skin screenings to check moles and other potential problems. The event will be at the Lewis Drug located at 41st Street and Minnesota Avenue. For more information about the event just call 877-AT-AVERA.