Recently a friend posted a very impactful message on her Facebook page (thanks, Lisa!) that I would like to recommend. The youtube video is called Dear 16 year-old Me, and shows real people who lives have been deeply affected by melanoma, and the message they would love to go back in time and send to themselves (and their loved ones) before they started purposefully sun tanning to “look healthy”.
Many people are unaware that the skin cancer MELANOMA is a very serious cancer. Because it looks like a simple little funny-looking mole on the skin, there is often the assumption that a quick skin biopsy will fully take care of the issue. Not so! While these cancers start in the pigment-producing skin cells, they can invade locally and then break off and metastasize to the liver, lungs and even the brain.
Melanoma skin cancers kill roughly 8000 people in the United States every year, and show up in an estimated 100,000 people annually. (Numbers on this vary greatly, partly because although melanoma cases should be reported to central cancer registries, many providers are unaware of this these reporting requirements.) I know in my practice, I have seen younger and younger patients (not just because I am growing older!) with this scary diagnosis. Did you know that using a tanning bed before you turn 35 will cause a 75% increased risk of developing this cancer? Other risk factors include blistering sunburns in childhood, living at higher altitude (>2300 feet), family history of melanoma, fair skin, red or blond hair and more than 5 sunburns in your entire lifetime.
Remember the ABCDE’s of Melanoma:
Border (that looks irregular)
Color variation (including reds, blacks or blues)
Elevation (you can feel it as a bump above the skin)
And ultimately, remember this- if all your “moles” look the same, and ONE looks different- please go get that one checked out. Just like Sesame Street, if “one of these things is not like the others” then it “doesn’t belong”!
BOTTOM LINE: Please, watch the video- the message is very effective. And remember to wear sunscreen and protective clothing this summer!