What Everyone Should Know about Melanoma

The way to prevent melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is to stay out of the sun or protect yourself from its damaging rays.

The message couldn’t be clearer: The way to prevent melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is to stay out of the sun or protect yourself from its damaging rays. Yet many people, especially women, aren’t getting the message.

The number of white women ages 15 to 39 with melanoma rose more than 50 percent from 1980 to 2004.

That’s because young women are likely to spend more time in the sun and in tanning salons than others.

Melanoma also increased about 4.5 percent per year among men over age 65 from 1992 to 2004.

Also, people are more likely to develop cancer as they age. Too much time spent in the sun is the cause of most melanoma, which is common on the face, neck, back, chest and legs, though it can appear virtually anywhere on the body, from head to toe. It is usually a new brown or black skin growth or a change in a mole.

“Most people think only burning does damage. That’s not true. Tanning damages DNA, too.

Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that blocks UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 45.

Avoid tanning salons, which deliver a significant, but unpredictable, amount of ultraviolet radiation.

The risk for skin cancer increases after just 12 sessions.

Individuals who have a lot of moles or unusual moles are at an increased risk of melanoma, as well as those with fair skin or a close relative with melanoma. They should be checked at least once a year by a doctor.

If you have a mole that is new, has changed color, or is growing, you could have melanoma.

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