By Debra Jaliman, MD
Debra Jaliman, MD, is a world-renowned dermatologist with a private practice on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and the author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. Internationally recognized for her research and work in clinical and cosmetic dermatology, Jaliman is at the forefront of the latest skin care news, clinical updates, emerging trends, and more.
“Out, damned spot” is a familiar line to many as it’s one said by Lady Macbeth. I don’t think she was referring to skin cancer when she said that line. And to think that a spot could kill us at any time. Malignant melanoma is just such a spot. Every hour in the United States someone dies from a malignant melanoma and it’s on the increase. From 1970 to 2009 the incidence of melanoma increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men. Although melanoma is rare in children, there are still 300 to 400 new cases diagnosed every year and the number is increasing every year.
In my practice alone we find a few every week. The troubling part is that they are becoming more and more difficult to spot as they are starting to look like abnormal moles or, as I say, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have found light brown spots with a pinpoint dark spot inside or a light brown spot with a slightly irregular edge that ended up being melanoma. Melanoma can be found anywhere but are more common on the legs of women and the backs of men. We have to be even more vigilant.
So what can you do? Wear a broad- spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy. Make certain to apply enough and re-apply after sweating or swimming. Consider wearing sun protective clothing at the beach and UV 400 sunglasses. Avoid the midday sun from 10 am to 4pm. Never use sun lamps or tanning beds. Become familiar with your moles. Do a self-exam at least twice a year.
If a mole changes in size, shape, itches or bleeds have it checked immediately. A trained dermatologist can look at your skin with magnifiers or can use a specialized camera (MelaFind) This Monday is May 6 which is Melanoma Monday where there will be skin cancer screenings across the country by board certified dermatologists. This is a free service provided by the American Academy of Dermatology to spread awareness about ways to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers. If you haven’t already been to the dermatologist this would be a good time to get your yearly skin checkup. It just may just save your life.