Melanoma: Tips for finding and preventing

Melanoma: Tips for finding and preventing

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Finding melanoma

Finding melanoma early is important. When melanoma is found early and treated, it is almost 100% curable. This is true even if you have had melanoma. If melanoma spreads, it can be deadly.

Here is what you can do to find melanoma early:

  • Check your skin for signs of skin cancer. To help people find melanoma early, the American Academy of Dermatology created the body mole map, which:
    • Illustrates how to examine your skin.
    • Shows you what to look for (ABCDEs of melanoma).
    • Gives you a place to write down where your moles appear on your body.
    When examing your skin, be sure to check your scalp, feet, nails, and genital area. Melanoma can appear on parts of the body that people do not think to check.

    And check your scalp, palms, soles, fingernails, and toenails. Melanoma can appear under a nail. Beneath a nail, the most common early warning sign of melanoma  is a brown- to black-colored nail streak.

    Another early warning sign is a spot that looks like a bruise. The bruise may fade and then come back.
  • Make an appointment to see a dermatologist. If you find a mole or growth on your skin that is growing, unusual, bleeding or not like the rest, you should see a dermatologist.

  • Get a free skin cancer screening. The American Academy of Dermatology offers free skin cancer screenings throughout the United States. Most free screenings happen in the spring.

    If you do not find a screening in your area, you can sign up to receive an email that lets you know when the next free screening will take place in your area.

If you have had melanoma

You should know that you have a higher (5 times higher) risk of getting another melanoma. But, there is good news. Finding melanoma early still leads to a high cure rate. You should:

  • Examine your skin for signs of skin cancer.
  • Keep all appointments for follow-up exams. The sooner melanoma or another skin cancer is found, the better the outcome. During follow-up exams, the doctor may do more than look at your skin. You may need to see an eye doctor. Melanoma can develop in the eye. You may need blood work or an x-ray.

Preventing skin cancer

The following can help everyone reduce their risk of getting skin cancer:

  • If you tan, stop. Tanning outdoors, using tanning beds, and sitting under sun lamps are not safe. Research shows indoor tanning increases a person's melanoma risk by 75%.

    And forget about getting a base tan before going on a tropical vacation. A base tan will not protect you. It just increases your risk for getting skin cancer.
A tan is not a sign of good health. It is a sign that you have damaged your skin.
  • Spend time outdoors when the sun is less intense. Before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m., the sun’s rays are less intense.
  • Wear sunscreen every day. Even on cloudy, rainy, and snowy days, you need to wear sunscreen. Here what to look for in a sunscreen:
    • A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.
    • UVA and UVB protection.
  • Wear sunglasses that have UV protection. Melanoma can develop in the eyes.

How to apply sunscreen

  • Apply at least 20 minutes before you go outside.
  • Put sunscreen on all skin that will not be covered by clothing.
  • If you spend time outside, reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours.

Support groups:

If you are living with melanoma, you may want to join a support group:

Related resources:

Learn more about melanoma:

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