Tami Griffith – Melanoma mortality rate continues to rise
Granby, CO Colorado
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer and it is the most severe type of skin cancer known. This cancer is ranked 6th in the list of the most common cancers in the United States today.
It is estimated that 1 out of 50 individuals in the United States will be diagnosed with Melanoma sometime during their life.
The overall mortality rate worldwide has continued to rise. However, there has been a decline in mortality in younger patients. This is thought to be due in part to early detection and treatment of the condition.
The latest evidence points to a possible combination of risk factors that contribute to the development of Melanoma. Childhood and adolescent sunburn and intermittent sun exposure appear to contribute to the development of melanoma later in life.
Most of the melanomas develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin such as the back, face, arms, and legs. It has been noted that individuals with a pale skin color tend to develop this condition more often than those with a darker skin tone. This is thought to be due to the ability of UV light to absorb more completely through the lighter skin tone.
Another risk factor involves your place of residence. The closer to the equator an individual is, the greater the chance of developing Melanoma due to the stronger UV light.
Some studies indicate that a decrease in sunlight exposure after a primary diagnosis of Melanoma can prevent a person from developing a second primary melanoma.
Tanning beds are very popular today. However, studies have shown these to contribute to the incidence of Melanoma. One report showed a 75 percent increase in the risk of certain melanomas in persons using tanning beds before age 35.
PUVA therapy is a type of ultraviolet light that is used to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions. In one study, this has been shown to increase melanoma rates 16-20 years after receiving the treatments. The incidence was noted more in those who had received stronger doses of PUVA.
Family history of melanoma can be a risk factor as well. There is a group called FAMMM. This stands for Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome. If you have one or more 1st or 2nd degree relatives diagnosed with malignant melanoma, multiple moles yourself, and moles that exhibit certain features while examined under the microscope, this increases your risk. There is also a possibility that you may have an increased risk of pancreatic cancer as well.
If you are in this group, you need to have your skin examined by a dermatologist every three to six months. If you have a child that fits in this category, they should receive their first skin exam by the age of 10 or younger if indicated.
There does appear to be a possible correlation between certain chemical occupational exposure and the development of melanoma. PCBs, petroleum, ionizing radiation, and selenium may be a contributing factor in this disease development.
Some recent research seems to indicate an increase in the incidence of melanoma in those diagnosed with Endometriosis and Parkinson’s disease.
In order to diagnose melanoma, your provider will examine the questionable lesion and if it is clinically indicated, the lesion will be biopsied and sent to a pathologist for evaluation.
Treatment options include: removal of the lesion surgically, removal of associated lymph nodes if indicated, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation.
The ABC warning signs to look for include:
• Asymmetry (one half of the skin growth does not look like the other half)
• Border irregularity (ragged or blurred edges)
• Color (different shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue as well as the spread of color outside of the skin growth to the surrounding tissue)
• Diameter (skin growth larger than 6 mm or the same size as a pencil eraser)
• Evolution (a change in the size, shape, color of the skin lesion, also any itching, bleeding, or tenderness)
If an existing mole shows: any thickening or elevation that was not noted previously,
area around skin growth showing redness, swelling, color, scaling, bleeding, or crusting, burning, tingling, or itching, or small pieces of the skin lesion breaking off, this could indicate a melanoma as well.
In order to prevent melanoma, it is important to remember to wear sunscreen on a daily basis , year around, with at least an SPF of 30, wear protective clothing and hat, and avoid the midday sun.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all individuals ages 40 and over have a yearly skin exam by their primary care provider or dermatologist.
For more information contact The American Cancer Society 1-800-ACS-2345 or Granby Medical Center, 970-887-7400.
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