Melanoma: the deadly risk to ‘fun in the sun’

Summer fun in the sun can be deadly without proper precaution.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Although it accounts for only about 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, it causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. Timing is everything when it comes to diagnosing this deadly disease.

“There has been a dramatic advancement in the medical management of melanoma, especially in the last couple of years,” said Alan Menter, MD, chief of the division of dermatology at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. “We hope to elevate public understanding and knowledge of appropriate screening. Too many melanomas are diagnosed too late.”

Despite these advances in medicine, the numbers speak for themselves. Nearly 10,000 Americans died from melanoma in 2014 and more than 75,000 cases were diagnosed the same year, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The incidence of melanoma has been on the rise for decades, and accounts for the highest number of skin cancer-related deaths each year by far,” said Lance Cowey, MD, medical director of the Skin Cancer Screening, Research and Treatment Center at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor Dallas. “The silver lining is that there have been a number of advances in treatment, as well as innovative clinical trials that are giving new hope to many patients.”

People under age 45 account for about one out of four melanoma cases. Caucasian-Americans are 23 times more likely to develop melanoma than African-Americans. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily, those with abnormally shaped moles and people with family members who have had melanoma are at higher risk. The major risk factor is ultraviolet light either from the sun or tanning beds.

Related: Is your sunscreen protecting you?

Using the ABCDE method will help you determine if you should have your spot or mole looked at:

A – Asymmetry

Is it asymmetrical in shape – not round or symmetrical?

B – Border Irregularity

Does it have an irregular border to it?

C – Color

Are there different colors within the mole or spot?

D – Diameter

Is it bigger than six millimeters across?

E – Evolution

Has it changed in appearance over time?

Getting a suspicious spot or mole checked out by a doctor is the key to being able to cure melanoma. Waiting too long can be dangerous.


About the author

Steve Jacob
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Steve is a senior marketing and public relations consultant for Baylor Scott & White Health. He spent nearly four decades in newspaper and magazine editorial and business management and is the author of two books on healthcare reform. He was also the founding editor of D Magazine's D Healthcare Daily.

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Melanoma: the deadly risk to ‘fun in the sun’