(CBS) With warmer months ahead, a new survey finds more than half of Americans are not concerned about developing skin cancer, even though they may have an elevated risk. Doctors are using this Melanoma Monday to raise awareness.
Dr. Maral Kibarian Skelsey, dermatologist and director of the Dermatologic Surgery Center of Washington, says skin cancer is on the rise, with about 200,000 cases of melanoma each year. It’s the deadliest form but treatable if caught early.
The American Academy of Dermatology says the best prevention is wearing sunscreen and sun protective clothing and watching for changes to your skin. “ If you have a spot on your skin that has looked the same your whole life and suddenly the edges might look different, or the color changes, if the size changes, that’s an important factor. But in darker skin types melanoma can be diagnosed often very late and it appears in areas that are not necessarily sun exposed,” Dr. Skelsey says.
Rachel Ferris went to the dermatologist to check a rash on her stomach. She left the exam with a diagnosis she never saw coming. “I was going for a rash, didn’t think that I was going and gonna come out being told that I had stage 1 melanoma, ” she said.
The 28-year-old grew up as a competitive swimmer and visited tanning salons before her meets. Without a family history of skin cancer, she never thought of that ultraviolet exposure as a risk for melanoma. “Sun exposure and tanning beds is what caused it. I just had a very low threshold for what my body could take,” Ferris said.
After having eight cancerous spots removed, Ferris likes to spread the word. “Friends tell me they’re going on a beach vacation, I’m like wear your sunscreen.” An ounce of prevention that could save a life.
Studies show using tanning beds before the age of 20 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 47%.