INDIANAPOLIS—May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and Monday, May 6, has been designated as Melanoma Monday to help raise awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and affects more people than lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
“Current estimates indicate that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “However, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer by taking a few steps to protect yourself from the sun. Seeking shade, especially during midday hours, wearing sunglasses and using sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 15 or higher and protects against both UVA and UVB rays can help protect you and your loved ones.”
The two most common types, called basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more serious. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), melanoma, which accounts for five percent of skin cancer cases, causes the most skin cancer related deaths, killing one American every hour.
“Unlike many other common cancers, melanoma occurs in both younger and older people,” said Tom Rich, Director of Comprehensive Cancer Control for the Great Lakes Division of ACS. “Rates continue to increase with age and are highest among those in their 80s, but melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it is one of the more common cancers in young adults, especially young women.”
Changes in the shape, size and color of moles may indicate skin cancer. To help with early detection for melanoma and other skin cancers, State health officials suggest the following ABCDE guidelines when looking at a mole to determine if you should be concerned.
A = Asymmetry: One half of the mole (or lesion) does not match the other half.
B = Border: Border irregularity; the edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
C = Color: The pigmentation is not uniform, with variable degrees of tan, brown or black.
D = Diameter: The diameter of a mole or skin lesion is greater than six millimeters (or the size of a pencil eraser). Any sudden increase in the size of an existing mole should be checked.
E = Evolution: Existing moles changing shape, size or color.
“Skin cancer may appear differently than what is described in the ABCDE rule,” said Dr. VanNess. “If you notice any changes to existing moles or new growths on the skin, make an appointment with your health care provider for an exam.”
For more information about skin cancer in Indiana, visit the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012, a comprehensive report on the burden of cancer in Indiana at http://indianacancer.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ICC-Facts-and-Figures-2012-Melanoma_Skin-Cancer-pg-45-49.pdf.
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Those interested in impacting the burden of cancer in Indiana should consider participating in the Indiana Cancer Consortium (ICC). The ICC is a statewide network of partnerships whose mission is to reduce the cancer burden in Indiana through the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive plan that addresses cancer across the continuum from prevention through palliation. Participation in the ICC is open to all organizations and individuals interested in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, data collection and advocacy regarding cancer-related issues. To become a member of the ICC and find additional information about cancer prevention and control in Indiana, please visit the ICC’s website at www.indianacancer.org.
To visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website, go to www.StateHealth.in.gov.