Not Just One Day, But Every Day…Total Body Skin Cancer Exams Save Lives
Celebrating National Cancer Survivor’s Day on June 7, 2020
Skin cancers are by far the most common of all cancers, and while melanoma, the deadliest form, accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers – it results in a majority of skin cancer deaths.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in the U.S. in 2020:
- About 100,350 new melanomas will be diagnosed (approximately 60,190 in men and 40,160 in women).
- About 6,850 people are expected to die of melanoma (approximately 4,610 men and 2,240 women).
"When I took science class, I learned that the largest organ of the body is my skin,” said Heather, now an active mother of three.
“Throughout my life, I heard about the importance of sunscreen and what SPF was. I always wore what I thought was ‘enough’ SPF. Then, my mom went to a dermatologist for a routine total-body skin cancer exam. And it happened. She was diagnosed with melanoma. We were shocked. She had not gone out in the sun much, if ever.
“I, on the other hand, even with my fair skin and hair, did. As a result, I had tons of freckles and moles I thought were cute and added character. Little did I know they were adding much more than that. After my mother’s diagnosis, I was home on maternity leave after having a baby, and had some spare time, so I decided it was time for me to just go to a dermatologist and get checked out. I had a total-body skin cancer exam at the Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery office in Heathrow, which resulted in having a couple biopsies, and quickly learned those cute freckles were up to no good. ‘It could never happen to me’, did. I had a melanoma on my back that had to be removed. And while the spot was small, the area that had to be excised was pretty generous.
“Hearing the results come back positive for melanoma is so scary. I had never really understood the importance of dermatology before, and never thought I’d need to see a dermatologist. I had wrongly thought dermatologists were just for people with extreme skin conditions or for those who wanted to use aesthetics to improve the look and health of their skin. I quickly learned what an important role a great dermatology team can play in your overall health and wellness, and how important it is to be proactive in getting your exams, not reactive. The staff at Advanced Dermatology helped me understand my diagnosis and feel less scared.
“I kept up on my exams, and three years later, I had biopsies performed on spots on both of my arms. The spot I was concerned about turned out to be nothing. The one I wasn’t really worried turned out to be another melanoma. “Lucky for me, I was ahead of the game, and this time, we caught it early, when it was rather small compared to the last one.
“Now, I know I’m at increased risk for future melanomas, so my follow ups will be more frequent, but the small inconvenience is worth it.
“My 19-year-old daughter, who like me and her grandmother, is fair-skinned and light haired, knows that real skin care is more than wiping off makeup or a nightly regimen. With our history of Melanomas, she has already begun getting her total-body skin cancer exams.
“I’m thankful for the education I have received from the Advanced Dermatology staff and am using my voice to tell everyone I can that annual total-body skin cancer exams are worth the time. Early detection saves lives. I'm living proof.”
Melanoma Risk Factors
- Age - The rates of melanoma have been rising rapidly over the past few decades, and the risk increases as people age. The average age of people at diagnosis is 65. However, melanoma is not uncommon even among those under 30, and is one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).
- Race - Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in Whites than African Americans, especially in those people with light hair, blue or green eyes and light skin that freckles or burns easily.
- Gender - Melanoma is more common in men overall, but before age 50 the rates are higher in women.
- Ultraviolet Light Exposure - Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is a major risk factor for most melanomas. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays, but exposure can be intensified by using tanning beds and sun lamps.
- Family History of Melanoma – The risk of melanoma is higher if one or more of your first-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, or children) has had melanoma. Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease. The increased risk might be because of a shared family lifestyle of frequent sun exposure, a family tendency to have fair skin, certain gene changes (mutations) that run in a family, or a combination of these factors.
- Personal History of Melanoma or Other Skin Cancers – Those who have had melanoma, or other skin cancers such as basal or squamous cell carcinoma are at higher risk of getting melanoma again.
- History of Breast Cancer – there is a reciprocal increase in the risk for melanoma if you have had breast cancer and vice versa.
- Weakened Immune System - People with weakened immune systems (from certain diseases or medical treatments) are more likely to develop many types of skin cancer, including melanoma.
Learn the ABCDE’s of melanoma. Moles or growths that change, itch or bleed could be early warning signs of a melanoma and should be checked by one of our dermatologists. Regular self-skin exams and a yearly total-body skin cancer exam by one of Advanced Dermatology’s board certified dermatologists or other dermatology professionals are crucial in finding skin cancer early.
Increase your chances to survive cancer. Schedule your annual total-body skin cancer exam today by calling 866.400.3376 (DERM).