What is your risk for Melanoma? Your own personal risk?
Have I been asking myself “what is your risk for melanoma, my personal risk?” Not until I began to learn about Melanoma. Yes, I knew it was a serious form of skin cancer. In my mind, this form of skin cancer is kind of an oddball branch that happens for no reason and to other people.
While these ideas have some truth in them, melanoma is also caused by too much sun exposure. The risk is one you take every time you get too much sun on your skin.
So what are we talking about when we talk about your risk of melanoma? How can you reduce your risk?
Consider for a moment your daily habits. Do you smoke? Smoking puts you at a higher level for any kind of cancer or illness. Are you having problems with your immune system? Is your diet healthy or filled with empty calories?
Do you drink alcohol? Especially while you are out in the sun with friends? Alcohol dilates your blood vessels. You will get hotter quicker and allow the sun to affect you more when you are consuming alcohol.
What You Can Control
While there are a few factors that go with developing melanoma that you have little control over, maybe awareness will allow you to do what you can.
Usually, the people who have the highest risk of developing melanoma are men. As with all skin cancers, the melanoma is an accumulation of exposures. By the time they are 50 men began to find the skin cancers are showing up.
As with all skin cancers, more cases of melanoma are showing up with the warming of the world. The dissolving of the Ozone layer, that one layer of the stratosphere did more than we realized. The trend now is for skin cancers to appear earlier in the patients’ life. So the disease that a few years ago only happened to “old people” is happening to my friends and my kids!
Review Of Risk Factors
Some members of your family may not sunburn as quickly as the others do. However, you are all at risk for developing skin cancers and melanoma. Some of us may develop skin cancer with very few experiences of overexposure. That is just the risk we all have. Why we must all be more cautious.
So let us look again at the more complete risks list. This could spark an idea for how you can really make a difference for you.
Your age, your race, your family history with melanoma are parts of the risk that you can do nothing about. Are you fair with light colored hair and/or eyes? These factors may cause you to need to take extra precautions. That is something you can do.
More of the risk factors include:
- How often you expose your skin.
- Do you work outside?
- Are you out in the sun during the high-risk times of 10 AM until 4 PM? This does not mean you won’t sunburn at other times, you can burn but it usually takes a bit longer.
- Are you spending your time in the sun on cement, snow, water? These surfaces reflect suns rays and add to the risk factor.
- Drinking alcohol while in the direct sun is also a factor we touched on earlier.
Your eyes are at risk when you are not wearing good UV blocking sunglasses. Cataract surgery is needed earlier with the warming of the world. This was once not even considered until you were close to 70 years old. It is happening quite often to those in their late 50’s or early 60’s.
Skin cancer on the eyelids is quite common, especially for athletes who practise and play mostly outside. Golf players are often victims of this skin cancer as they are often older, and have many exposures.
What Can You Do
Just because you have one of the risk factors that increase your chances for skin cancer, and melanoma, does not guarantee you will have the condition. Many who have few or no known risk factor may have some form of skin cancer.
This is one of the reasons you need to know where you are with risk factors for melanoma or other skin cancers. While you may have risks that you can do nothing about, like what you are born with, there are some things you can do. Lowering your personal risk of any form of skin cancer is what you can do to reduce your chance of these diseases in your lifetime.
When you are aware that your skin burns easily, you know to protect it with sunscreen and sun blocking clothing.
Several risk factors can make a person more likely to develop melanoma.
You Don’t Have Skin Cancer?
You Don’t Have Skin Cancer, Yet
Avoiding tanning beds is one of the things you can avoid, even if you have some peer pressure. The ultraviolet rays that are used in a tanning bed are seriously dangerous for your skin. Even with sunscreen! Melanoma is the result of too much ultraviolet light on your skin.
You may not avoid the problems of skin cancers by avoiding the sunbeds, but you will surely make the problems apparent sooner. Plus the ageing of your skin is not something you will appreciate from using the sunbeds.
Ultra Violet rays are only a small part of the sun’s rays, yet they are the main cause of the sun damaging your skin. UV rays damage the DNA or the genetic code that manages your cells. The individual cell damage is mostly from the UV Rays. This particular sun ray can destroy the cells ability to reproduce itself as needed. You skin cells are not able to replace and regrow properly.
The damage is permanent, and one you can be aware and protect your self from.
Just Another Warning
While avoiding any skin cancer, we are focusing on melanoma in this article. This form of skin cancer is so serious that I wanted you to understand your risk to melanoma. The frequency of your exposure to the UV rays and the part of your body exposed seem to follow a trend. With melanoma on your chest, back, and legs seem to be linked to frequent sunburns including those in your younger years.
These areas are not always exposed to the sun’s rays. You are often covered in these areas by clothing. This seems to suggest that melanoma that starts in these areas are different from the ones on your neck, nose, face, ears and other places that receive exposure very often.
Also, there seems to be a difference in the melanomas on the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet. You can develop melanoma under your nails, or internal surface like the vagina or inside your mouth. These places receive little or no exposure to the sun’s rays.
When learning about melanoma the mole connection made me stop and think, which is what awareness should do for us. The presence of the mole on my neck at the jaw bone hasn’t bothered me. At least not physically. It is still worrisome appearance-wise. I do wish I didn’t have it, but ould require putting me to sleep to remove. This makes me know I am at a higher risk.
Moles are usually non-cancerous, have some color and are a tumor. Babies are not usually born with a mole, however, can begin to appear on children and young adults.
If you have many moles, the moles will seldom cause any problems. However, someone who has many moles is more likely to develop melanoma.
Moles that are atypical look a little like normal moles, but also have some characteristics of melanoma. These are usually larger and a bit different shape or/and color. These kinds of moles can appear on parts of the body that is exposed to the sun, as well as on parts never exposed.
If your Mom or Dad or Grandparents or other members has the atypical mole syndrome, you will have a higher chance of developing the moles. Also, your chances of developing melanoma is higher, with or without the moles. Pay attention. Protect yourself.
Fair Skin, Freckling, And Light Hair
There is a higher risk for melanoma for white skin than for African Americans. Those with blonde or red hair and the blue or green eye color and/or light white skin that freckles and sunburns quickly are at higher risk.
Have A Family History Of Melanoma
Yout risk of melanoma is, as you would expect higher if one or more of your immediate family has had this cancer. The increased risk may be because of a family lifestyle of frequent sun exposure. Maybe a family trait of light skin that freckles. Could be shared gene changes or mutations that run in a certain family. Or maybe just a combination of these factors. Research is ongoing and will reveal someday the actual causes. This will allow us to be more accurate in our skin protection.
Most skin care experts recomment that people who have the higher risks;
- Get regular skin exams by a dermatologist
- Examine your own skin once a month
- Be particularly careful about sun protection and avoiding manmade UV rays (such as those from tanning beds)
- Know your risk factors and plan to take the proper protection of sunscreens, sun blocking clothing and avoiding exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Be aware that having melanoma in the past makes you more apt to have it develop again.
Do You Have A Weakened Immune System
Your immune system helps fight cancers of the skin, as well as other organs. Those with weakened immune systems from certain diseases or medical treatments will be more likely to develop one or more of the many types of skin cancer, including melanoma. This condition changes your risk for melanoma, and not in a good way.
People who get organ transplants are usually given medicines that weaken their immune system. This is done to help prevent them from rejecting the new organ. This kind of treatment increases their risk of melanoma.
Then, if you have HIV or AIDS, you will often also have a weakened immune system. Having a weakened immune is a big risk factor for melanoma development.
Melanoma is more likely to develop in older members of our family. However, it is also found in younger people. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people younger than 30 (especially younger women). So if melanoma runs in your families they may occur at a younger age.
In the United States, younger men have a higher rate of melanoma than women. Before age 50, the risk is higher for women; after age 50 the risk switches and is higher in men.
In the United States, men have a higher rate of melanoma than women, although this varies by age. Before age 50, the risk is higher for women; after age 50 the risk is higher in men.
Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) is rare. This is an inherited condition that makes skin cells’ ability to repair damage to their DNA weak and not very effective. People with XP have a high risk of developing melanoma as well as other skin cancers when they are young, especially on sun-exposed areas of their skin. If you know this condition runs in your family, protect your skin with sun blocking clothing.
For a child to have xeroderma pigmentosum, the gene is passed from both parents. This is a rare situation as most die or become disabled before reaching childbearing age. The condition is rare and serious. You will sunburn in only a few minutes. Serious sunburn. So when you have this condition, you are aware of it early in life.
When you have this condition, your chances of melanoma are greatly increased.
So What Is Your Risk For Melanoma
You have heard about the risk factors for melanoma. This can usually be cured when found early. It can be fatal when ignored. As with all risks, to manage the risk factors can help protect you. Will you wear sun blocking clothing? Use full-spectrum sunscreen of 30 or higher?
Consider the measures you can use to enjoy being out in the sun, but protect yourself. Give your self a long and safe life.