Melanoma Monday starts skin cancer awareness month

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Today is Melanoma Monday, designated by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to raise awareness about melanoma and other skin cancers while encouraging early detection. Today also kicks off skin cancer awareness month.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than a million in nonmelanomas expected to be diagnosed this year and about 76,000 melanoma cases. Melanoma rates are also on the rise in the young adult population. A study published in the April issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found an eight-fold increase in melanoma cases in young women and a four-fold increase in young men when comparing diagnoses in the 1970s to 2000s. The study analyzed data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project to examine first-time diagnoses from 1970-2009. And although diagnoses increased during that time period, overall survival improved. And a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that women with early-stage melanoma have a 30 percent survival advantage compared with male patients. (Men are also known to have a higher lifetime risk for melanoma.) The researchers hypothesize that this advantage could be due to biological differences between the sexes but state that there must be further research into this discrepancy.

Due to the increasing rates of skin cancers among young people, several states have enacted some form of legislation to limit tanning bed usage (a known carcinogen) in this age group. Just last week, Vermont joined California in banning tanning bed usage in those under 18. While other states also have age limitations or require parental permission, these are the only two states to have a ban in place up to 18 years of age.

So how can you be more aware of skin cancer? Or if you have/had skin cancer, how can you share information with family and friends?

• The SPOT Skin Cancer campaign from the AAD offers tools and information for prevention and detection.

• ListentoYourSkin.org, which is sponsored by Leo Pharma, Inc., in association with the AAD, offers information on detection, the precancerous condition actinic keratosis and tools like finding the UV index in your area.

• The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund put together the viral video “Dear 16-year-old Me” to raise awareness and encourage prevention.

• More information skin-cancer specific nonprofits can be found in our toolbox.

• Read recent treatment information from CURE‘s “Melanoma: Ready for Takeoff” feature published last summer.

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