Why Is Melanoma Increasing When It's So Easily Prevented? - Virtua Article

Why Is Melanoma Increasing When It's So Easily Prevented?

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is the most common form of cancer among young adults ages 25-29 and the second most common form of cancer for young people ages 15-29. And, it’s responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths.  

What’s most frightening—the incidence of US melanoma cases has increased 200% since 1973. A similar increase also has happened in the UK.  

This makes melanoma THE most rapidly increasing cancer. But it only takes a few simple steps to help prevent it.

What causes melanoma?

Almost all melanomas are caused by ultraviolet light, both from the sun and indoor tanning devices. Therefore, ultraviolet light exposure is the most preventable risk factor. This is true for all forms of skin cancer. Genetics also plays a role as having two or more close family members (blood relatives) with melanoma is considered a strong risk factor.

What can young people do to prevent melanoma?

Starting at an early age, you need to wear a sunscreen of SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or above. To maximize your protection, you also should wear sunglasses and sun-protective clothing, seek shade and avoid midday (10 am to 2 pm) sun exposure—especially during summer months. Young people need to adopt a sun-protective mindset when enjoying the outdoors. Blistering burns at a young age can DOUBLE a person's chance of developing melanoma.

Is indoor tanning a safe alternative to sun exposure if you want a tan?  

Indoor tanning devices are absolutely NOT safer than sun. Use of these tanning devices (beds or booths) will INCREASE your chances of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

The best way to give your skin a “sun-kissed glow” is with self-tanners or sprays. These commonly contain the FDA-approved active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is a color additive that darkens the skin.

How is melanoma treated?

Surgery is the main treatment option for most melanomas, and usually cures it if it’s caught at an early stage. However, new genetic and immune-system-targeted treatments are being introduced at an explosive pace. Some are already showing great promise for treating patients with melanoma.

Fortunately, the overall 5-year survival rate in patients with melanoma has increased since the 1970s. Also, the rate of melanoma deaths has slowed and even stabilized over the past 10 years. Newer therapeutic treatments are a factor, as well as earlier diagnosis, which is why annual exams with a dermatologist and self-screening are so important.

Updated May 3, 2017

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