Over the past five years, approximately 80,000 Americans have been diagnosed with melanoma (National Cancer Institute, 2019).

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in cells responsible for pigmenting skin (National Cancer Institute, 2011). Melanoma continues to be a primary cause of death even though advances in treatment have helped (Chang et al., 2014). Once known as a rare cancer, melanoma is a growing problem (Matthews, Qureshi, Weinstock & Cho, 2017). It is most common in young women aged 15-39, but can affect anyone (Chang et al., 2014).

According to the National Cancer Institute (2019), roughly 1,315 South Carolinians have been diagnosed with melanoma. Florence County has 19 confirmed cases of melanoma (National Cancer Institute, 2019). Though 19 seems like a small number, this number is expected to rise.

Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer (American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2018). Since melanoma is mostly found on the skin, examining your skin can help to detect it early. When looking at your skin, ask these questions: (American Academy of Dermatology, 2018):

>> A: If you draw an imaginary line through the middle of a mole, does it look the same on both sides?

>> B: Do your moles have any jagged borders? Healthy moles have smooth, round borders.

>> C: Have your moles changed colors recently? Do any of them have darkened areas? Benign moles are one single color.

>> D: Are your moles bigger than 6mm wide? If they are larger than a pencil eraser, they should be checked by a dermatologist.

>> E: Have any new areas evolved over the past few weeks?

Be sure to check your fingernails and toenails for dark streaks. Look for moles that are itchy, bleeding, or flaky (American Academy of Dermatology, 2018).

How can you protect yourself against melanoma?

Even though the weather is getting cooler, you should still protect your skin when out in the sun.

>> Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to avoid getting sunburned.

>> Wear a wide-brimmed hat.

>> Wear long sleeves.

>> Avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find the shade.

>> Avoid tanning beds.

>> Sunglasses are important.

If you notice any areas on your skin that are concerning, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

MELISSA KIRK

Francis Marion University

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