(MURFREESBORO) - Unfortunately for the proponents of healthy skin and cancer prevention, Melanoma Monday coincided with Cinco de Mayo.
That means that the publicity that should have been given to this important health topic was overshadowed.
Although concern and recognition of the risk of sun damage to the skin have increased during the past few decades, there is still a very serious lack of public awareness of the danger of melanoma.
Or perhaps like those that ignore the risk of heart disease and cancer and choose to smoke cigarettes, the information is readily available, yet ignored.
In spite of considerable risk associated with excessive UV-light exposure and deadly melanoma, tanning is still very popular.
So much so in fact that a surprising number of melanoma survivors have been found to return to tanning, intentionally subjecting themselves to sun exposure without sunscreen.
These are people that managed to survive the deadliest form of skin cancer and have a significant risk of it returning.
Even though they have obviously learned that their genetic makeup places them at great risk of dying as a result of their habit of tanning or being careless about sun exposure, their habits remain unchanged.
As many as a quarter of melanoma survivors reported regularly being exposed to excessive sun without any protection such as long sleeves, shade or sunscreen products.
Although a limited amount of sun exposure is beneficial, and aids our bodies in ways such as converting sunlight to vitamin D, overexposure causes certain damage to skin.
If the damage is severe enough or the person has a genetic makeup that places them at risk for cancer, serious health consequences including death are at stake.
I am “experienced enough” (never say old) to have been around when lotions were developed that contain ingredients that actually inhibit the effects of ultraviolet rays on the skin.
That’s right, there was a time when sunscreen products didn’t exist, and it doesn’t seem that long ago.
Sunscreen lotions and sprays contain products that block the effects of the sun’s rays on the skin.
Rated in terms of their sun protection factor, they can range from minimal protections such as SPF 10 all the way up to SPF 50 or more.
Generally speaking, the rating is intended to indicate how long a person can stay in the sun without damage to the skin compared to the time they could stay in the sun without protection.
For example, if the SPF is 30, the person could theoretically remain in the sun 30 times longer than if they had no sun protection.
That makes it sound as if one could safely stay in the sun all day with a product rated SPF 30. This is not the case.
Skin experts say there is no benefit to using SPF greater than 30 and recommend that you reapply sunscreen every couple of hours if you are continually exposed.
Even if you carefully adhere to SPF ratings and reapplication guidelines, you are still at risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.
Research indicates the risk is reduced but not eliminated.
Recognizing melanoma early can save a life.
The deadly cancer can usually be treated successfully if caught early enough.
Any new mole or skin lesion should be examined by a doctor, preferably a dermatologist.
Melanomas usually are brown or black, but may be blue or even pink, tan or white.
In men, the most common sites are the chest or back.
For women, the most common site is the legs. However, they can appear on the face, head, neck, shoulders, arms or practically any other site on the body.
Although rare, melanomas can appear in places such as the eye, genitals or even mouth.
People with dark skin are generally at less risk than those that with a fair complexion.
Melanomas develop from cells called melanocytes. Benign moles are also developed from melanocytes.
You should be concerned about cancer if a mole changes color, grows in size, has irregular borders, is bigger than a pencil eraser, or develops unexpectedly.
There are other types of skin cancer that are far less aggressive and less dangerous that melanoma, but all skin cancers should be examined and treated as soon as possible.
Skin cancer can be treated very successfully in most cases if caught early. That is why it is important to have any suspicious spot examined by a doctor.
Also important is examining your habits and reducing the amount of unprotected sun exposure.
It may be time to rethink that tanning ritual. Long sleeves and shade could end up being your best friends.