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Common questions about melanoma

May 21, 2013

Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and the most common cancer among men and women age 20-29. In its early stages, melanoma is a very treatable cancer with a very successful (nearly 100 percent) survival rate. However, left undetected, melanoma can spread quickly, affecting other organs in the body and the lymph nodes, significantly decreasing chances for successful treatment.

Named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancer), skin cancer's three most common types are melanoma (starts in the pigment cells of the skin called melanocytes), squamous cell and basal cell.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?

Some of the risk factors for melanoma include long sun exposure, family and personal history, a history of sunburns and use of tanning beds.

Can melanoma be prevented?

Melanoma can be preventable with some simple precautions. Wearing protective clothing, sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30 and avoiding the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m can help reduce risk of developing melanoma.

Melanoma is growing at an epidemic rate with an estimated 3 percent increase in cases annually, but you can take precautions to lower your risk factors. Wear sunscreen when you are exposed to the sun, protective clothing (hats, shirts, etc.) and wear sunscreen. Also, visit your dermatologist yearly to have your skin examined for asymmetrical dark spots or atypical moles.