September 21, 2017

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Melanoma – An Increasing Epidemic in Young Adults

Skin Cancer MelanomaAs a dermatologist my concern for your skin is year-round, but as spring and summer approach it’s important to start thinking about sun and skin safety.

Skin Cancer is Attacking our Young!

At ACMC, we have three dermatologists and we are all seeing the same trend that is being reported nationally; skin cancer is on the rise! We are seeing an increase in all types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Of all these, the most impressive and most frightening increase has been that of melanoma. This is not just a disease of the elderly; women between the ages of 16 and 34 have had the most significant increase in this cancer. When I started practice 20 years ago, melanoma was an infrequent diagnosis. I now make multiple new melanoma diagnoses every week, follow many past melanoma patients daily and have had a number of patients die from this disease, including a 29-year-old woman. This is an epidemic, it’s scary and for many people it’s preventable!

Are Tanning Beds Safe?

There is no such thing as a safe tanning bed; they are all bad PERIOD! The World Health Organization has declared them to be a carcinogen and called for a ban. The Federal Trade Commission has prohibited the tanning bed industry from making false claims that UV light is beneficial. The reason they are no longer allowed to make those statements is because there is NO safe way to tan! A tan is your skin’s attempt to protect itself from a carcinogen. Over the last decade, more and more research has demonstrated that tanning bed use increases the risk of skin cancer, most significantly melanoma. Studies by Dr. DeAnn Lazovich from the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that the relationship is linear. Any tanning bed exposure is risky, but the younger you are when you start tanning and the more you do it, the greater the melanoma risk.

Base Tanning for Vacations

As people plan mid-winter trips to the tropics or try to ready their skin for summer, a common trend is to use indoor tanning beds to develop a base tan. This is ill-advised. A tan provides minimal sun protection and significant skin damage. It simply doesn’t make sense.

Sun Safety

Know your three S’s; sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and sun avoidance. When you are out in the sun you should use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Make sure you use a generous amount (the equivalent of a shot glass full).

Cindy Firkins Smith, MD, Dermatology, ACMC-Willmar/Litchfield

Cindy Firkins Smith, MD, Dermatology, ACMC-Willmar/Litchfield

Reapply it every two hours and after swimming or sweating. It is also important to remember that sunscreen is only one part of the equation. You should also wear sun protective clothing and a hat, as well as avoid the sun, if possible during the most intense times of the day (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) Parents, remember that your children are watching you. If you are telling them to put on sunscreen and you are not doing so yourselves, they aren’t likely to see its importance.

Self-Exam

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your skin. If you see anything that’s unusual (asymmetrical, with irregular borders, or unusual color, anything different from your “typical” mole, or anything changing) schedule an appointment and get it checked out. Many skin cancers are preventable with good “sun sense” and most are curable if diagnosed early. Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Cancer-Free.

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