Melanoma Awareness Day 2

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Risk Factors

You may be asking, what are the risk factors for developing melanoma?  Who gets it, why, and how do I lower my chances?  Here are some basic things to keep in mind.

  • Light complection:  You may have heard that if you have light complected skin, if you are a blonde or a red head, and if you have blue or other light colored eyes that you are at greater risk.  This is true!  You’ve known this all your life…you always burn, you never tan, you have freckles (lots of them)…your skin is more easily damaged by the sun than people who have darker pigmentation…it’s biology.  Melanoma is growth of abnormal cells, a.k.a. cells that have been damaged due to sunburn.  However, don’t think for one second that darker pigmentation means you can’t get melanoma because you still can…the risk is just slightly lower.  Yes, even African American’s can get melanoma.  Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its natural color…Caucasians have less.  The tragic fact is that the darker the natural skin color, the longer it takes to diagnose melanoma simply because it’s harder to see and detect.  Read more about skin type by clicking this link.  Skin type and cancer risk.
    • Did you know…Bob Marley’s death was due to melanoma?  Melanoma was found on one of his toes after an athletic injury.  Due to Marley’s religious beliefs, he did not opt for amputation which could have saved his life, because as a Rastafarian amputation is considered sinful.  His melanoma metasticised when it spread to his lungs and brain.  He died at the age of 36.
  • Tanning bed use:  Risk of developing melanoma increases to 75% with the use of a tanning bed during younger years, specifically before the age of 30.  Click this link to read more…  Tanning beds are risk factors!
  • UV radiation:  Natural or artificial.  UV rays don’t discriminate.  Both are equally harmful.
  • Family history of melanoma:  Just one family member is all it takes to increase your chances for melanoma.  It’s not JUST the sun that does it.  There are genetic factors as well.  This means than my girls even need to be careful.  Sorry girls.
  • Sunburns at a young age:  All it takes is ONE serious sunburn and your risk for melanoma doubles!!!
  • Moles…lots of them:  General rule of thumb…50+ moles of any size come with an increased risk.
  • Previous diagnosis of melanoma:  This one is fairly obvious.  Melanoma LOVES to come back, it’s as simple as that.  If you’ve had a prior run-in with it, your risk is higher by default.  In my case with two battles under my belt, I now get quarterly examinations from both my oncologist and my dermatologist.  If that seems extreme, it’s all about staying on top of it, diagnosing as early as possible, and staying alive!!!  
  • Weakened/compromised immune system:  This is fairly self-explanatory.  Stress, chronic stress, emotional/psychological, and prolonged physical illness of any sort.
    • “However, recent studies found a link between stress, tumour development and suppression of natural killer (NK) cells, which is actively involved in preventing metastasis and destroying small metastases.”  (Salleh, 2008)
  • Previous non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis:  Your body has already proven that it has the tendency to mutate cells…whether your previous battle was squamous or basal carcinoma, you need to be more aware and diligent with your check-ups.
  • Age:  Men over the age of 50 have a higher risk factor for melanoma but teens and young adults, LISTEN UP!  You are NOT immune, you are NOT ten feet tall and bullet proof, you are just as likely to develope melanoma as the rest of us.  
    • “Melanoma is the second most common cancer in teens and young adults and is the most common type of cancer for young adults.”  (Melanoma Risk Factors, 2013)

” Take care! Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30 to 35 years old.”  (Melanoma Risk Factors, 2013)

Melanoma Girl has these five tips:  (Melanoma Girl, 2016)  PaleIsTheNewTan

1. Limit Your Exposure
2. Lather On Sunscreen
3. Sport Sexy Sunglasses
4. Seek Out Shade
5. Refuse To Use Tanning Beds

Sources:

Melanoma Risk Factors. (2013). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/preventing-melanoma/melanoma-risk-factors

Salleh, M. R. (2008, October 15). Life Event, Stress and Illness. Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

Image credits:

Melanomagirl.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://melanomagirl.com/

Skin Cancer at 25 – Refined Side. (2014). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://refinedside.com/2014/07/22/skin-cancer-at-25/

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