How to protect yourself and your loved ones from melanoma this summer
Hello and welcome back Hello readers! We are on the brink of a great summer I hope for all of us and as the weather’s been particularly kind to us this past week and as this is melanoma awareness month I thought it would be timely and appropriate to focus this month’s blog to an important aspect of our skin health; The prevention and treatment of the deadliest form of skin cancer – melanoma.
It is Melanoma awareness month in May and last Friday was don’t “Don’t Fry Day!” I hope you were all sun protected!
Before summer gets in to full swing…it is important to remember that there’s a lot we can still do to protect both our own skin and the skin of our loved ones by both recognising and treating melanoma (the most lethal of all skin cancers) in a timely manner. In this month’s blog I’d like to share with you some simple tips on how you can do this.
My tips on how to See, Spot and Sort melanoma skin cancer this summer:
It is now well known and research proven that most people detect their own melanomas. You may ask how? Well most people are familiar with their own skin and notice when something just doesn’t look like it used to… or they know intuitively that “something’s just not right”. This is all very well for areas on our bodies that we can see but what about areas that we can’t see? For these areas it’s really important that we recruit the use of our partners, family members or friends with preferably the same pair of eyes to look at our skin on a monthly basis. I also advise my patients to use their smart phones and take photos of areas like their back, scalp, soles of their feet and even the genital areas and keep these photos for reference on your own phone and compare your skin every month to these photos looking for any relevant change.
Once you start looking at your skin regularly (not any more frequently than once a month though) you will notice more! You will be empowered with the knowledge required to see “significant change”. The change you’re looking for is ABCD where A= Asymmetry, B=Border irregularity C= Colour change (different shades of colour developing in a lesion) D= Diameter or significant growth of a lesion. Please see my previous blog, which explains this technique of mole monitoring in further detail.
Once you’ve seen something you’re suspicious of my advice is that you mustn’t ignore it. It is vitally important that you report this mole to your General Practitioner (GP) who will take a look at this for you and refer you to a Specialist Dermatologist like myself if he/she also thinks this is suspicious. If in case you are suspicious of a mole and feel strongly that something’s not quite right and you would like an urgent specialist opinion on your mole I advise that you find a well-trained specialist (it is important that you check their credentials) and get your skin and moles checked. (This service is currently not available on the NHS without a prior GP referral).
- Advances in melanoma
The advantages of regularly checking your moles and reporting any change sooner rather than later is that if the lesion you spot does indeed turn out to be a melanoma it can be treated early on and prevent spread/metastasis.
If in case a melanoma is diagnosed, albeit at an advanced stage, there are options to control its further spread and have been shown to prolong life. We are in an exciting age and time for immune therapy targeted treatments for metastatic melanoma. There are various drugs and injectable vaccine treatments, which work on the genetic origins of melanoma cells and slow their progression and growth. These treatments have helped prolong the life of many people, however these drugs do have side effects and their use should be discussed with your doctor or Dermatologist who can inform you of their benefits and risks.
I hope you are now well and truly informed and ready for what I hope is a fabulous summer for you all. Please do stay sun safe and remember to See it, Spot it, Sort it # melanoma awareness.