About Melanoma » Educate Yourself
Click on a topic to the left for answers to commonly asked questions about melanoma.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Its capacity to spread widely to other tissues and organs accounts for those deadly effects. Very early stage (localized, Stage 0 or I) melanoma is greater than 90% curable with surgery, while patients with disseminated Stage IV melanoma have a median life expectancy of less than one year. Trends in the incidence of melanoma show that it is the fastest growing cancer globally and is a significant public health burden. In the U.S. alone, the incidence of melanoma has tripled over the past three decades and is currently one of the top 10 causes of new cancer cases.
Research funded by the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and others continues to advance our understanding of the causes of melanoma. However, it is already clear that exposure to damaging ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun or from indoor tanning devices can greatly increase one's risk. While continuing in its pursuit of a cure through funding cutting edge research, the MRA also encourages the public to be aware of the dangers of melanoma and to take simple steps to reduce their risk.
Exposure to damaging UV rays from the sun and tanning devices is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma. Research shows an association between sunburn and melanoma. Protect yourself daily using broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB rays) with SPF of at least 30 year-round, sun protective clothing, hat, and sunglasses; seek shade; and avoid being out mid-day when the sun’s rays are most intense. Some people may seek the sun and tanning beds because they are concerned they are not getting enough Vitamin D. If you and your doctor decide you need more Vitamin D, know that you do not need to put yourself at risk for skin cancer. Diet and supplements offer safe sources of Vitamin D without carcinogenic risk.
Indoor tanning has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by up to 75%. The World Health Organization classified tanning devices as cancer-causing, and other scientific authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warn that tanning devices cause serious health risks including skin cancer, skin burns, premature skin aging, and eye damage. Melanoma is the number one new cancer diagnosed in young adults, and scientists attribute this trend to the use of tanning beds among this age group, particularly young women.
Recognition of changes in the skin is the best way to detect melanoma early. Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma (moles or growths that are Asymmetrical, have an irregular Border, exhibit changes in Color, have a Diameter larger than the size of a pencil eraser, or have Evolved in size or thickness). If you notice one or more of these signs, see your healthcare provider. Those at higher risk for skin cancer (fair skin, red or blonde hair and light eyes, history of sunburn/excessive UV radiation exposure, having many or unusual moles, family or personal history of melanoma, weakened immune system) may consider discussing the benefits of regular skin examinations with their dermatologist or health care provider.