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Mission: Melanoma

June 25, 2019
Becky Powell, MS, RN, AOCN
Mission: Melanoma

IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS, THE RISK OF A DEADLY SKIN CANCER IS RISING. HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Here in Central Illinois, we’re on a mission to guard against a dangerous form of skin cancer. Recently, both Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center diagnosed more patients between the ages of 20 and 39 with melanoma than the national average.

Let’s think about that for a moment. These are people in the prime of life diagnosed with the most dangerous
form of skin cancer at an age when few of us are concerned about cancer.

That’s why we at Community Cancer Center would like to ask you to help us get the word out to your family and friends about preventing skin cancer. It’s especially important for people in our community to join our fight against the increasing rate of melanoma skin cancer in our community.

 

STEP 1: LEARN 
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It starts with a type of skin cell called, melanocytes. Melanoma is most likely to start on the face, neck and arms. When it first starts, it can look like a new mole, or even start on an existing mole. If detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. However, when a melanoma spreads, it can be deadly. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, nearly 100,000 new melanoma skin cancers will be diagnosed nationwide.

How does melanoma start?
Melanoma is believed to start with damaged cells. A common cause of skin cell damage is sun exposure. Though melanoma may not show up until decades later, the damage often starts in childhood.

Who is most at risk for melanoma?
Have you had more than five sunburns in your lifetime? Then you might be more at risk of developing melanoma. Your risks are higher if you have a family history of melanoma or if you have light skin or a higher number of moles. Having a weak immune system will increase your risk as does the use of tanning beds.

STEP 2: PREVENT
More than 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by over-exposure to the sun. Take the following steps to avoid UVB and UVA rays and you’ll not only help prevent skin cancer, but wrinkling and premature aging.
• Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
• Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or above on all exposed skin 20-30 minutes before going outside.
• Re-apply sunscreen about every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
• Don’t forget your lips! Use a SPF 30 lip balm and re-apply often.
• Wear wide brim hats and sun-protective clothing.
• Avoid using tanning beds.
• Wear sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These alternatives are considered safe and effective by the FDA.
• Steer clear of sunscreens containing PABA or tolamine salicylate. These options are found outside the US.


STEP 3: SCREEN
Examine your skin once a month. Note where your moles, freckles, blemishes and other markings are located and what they look like. Report any changes in the size, shape or color. Also be on alert for new characteristics, such as repeated bleeding, itching or soreness that doesn’t go away. Make an appointment for an annual skin screening, especially if you have risk factors. 

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