Melanoma and the Hispanic and Latino Communities

During May, which is Melanoma Awareness Month, we’d like to occasionally revisit and expand on topics that have been briefly mentioned before. With particular regard for those that highlight how (and that) melanoma directly affects different people.

Melanoma is Not Exclusive to Caucasians

For those who work to spread melanoma education and awareness, one of the largest (and most frustrating) obstacles to hurdle is the misconception that the disease only affects Caucasians. To some degree, it impacts every single race on Earth. Today, however, we’ll focus on the Hispanic and Latino communities.

By comparison, the risk to Hispanics and Latinos of developing melanoma is about 20% of the risk to the rest of the U.S. population. Unfortunately, however, research has shown there to be a disproportionate information gap on the subject within those communities. What’s worse, when melanoma(s) appear on an Hispanic person, they’re usually already at a more advanced state than those of their Caucasian counterparts.

That is not a good combination, because with melanoma speed of diagnosis is vital. In fact, it means everything. It can nearly always be cured if treated during its earliest stages, but the risk of it turning fatal steadily and significantly increases as time goes by.

The following direct quote from the cited Jamanetwork.com source article linked below goes into greater detail on some melanoma differences between Hispanics and Caucasians:

“…Latino patients in the United States more often present with tumors thicker than 1 mm (34.5% vs 24.9%), further advanced disease…greater regional involvement (12.4% vs 8.3%), and more distant disease (6.6% vs 3.6%), all of which result in greater mortality. The present study of skin self-examination (SSE) among Latinos extends the reach of this intervention, the effectiveness of which has already been demonstrated in a randomized clinical trial of a more general population, and aligns the scoring of features by participants and the dermatologist.”

We’ve included the latter part of that quote because it mentions skin self-examination (SSE); an activity of tremendous importance.

Each month, with the help of a trusted friend or loved one, make sure to check every inch of your skin for any new, odd-looking moles; or any changes to old ones. This includes the scalp, inside the mouth, in and around the ears, and under finger and toenails.

If you are a member of the Hispanic community, or close to those who are, it would be of immense help to everyone to spread this information as far and wide as possible.

Education is one of the strongest weapons we humans have in our arsenal to fight off melanoma. We all need to have as much of it as we can. After all, we’re all in this together.

*Additional source articles: Jamanetwork.com, Jamanetwork.com

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Teacher Survey Confirms Effectiveness of Melanoma Lessons

Nothing is more important to the Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) than educating people on how to prevent themselves from developing this disease; especially adolescents and teens. Also, to inform them about what to look for, and then how to proceed if a melanoma is discovered.

We believe the best way to accomplish our goals is to provide melanoma and skin cancer instruction materials, information and encouragement to the teachers and parents of these students.

Among these items are our highly-enlightening website melanomaeducation.net, and brief, three minute introductory YouTube video. It discusses the effective MEF lessons currently being taught by health and wellness educators in middle and high schools across the United States. (If you’d like to view that short YouTube video now, simply click HERE).

Recently, MEF founder and president Steve Fine was presented with a unique opportunity to gain significant insight into the MEF initiatives.

For a project assignment, a bright, young Emerson College Applied Learning Experience (ALE) student named Marissa Picerno created a web-based survey. Its purpose was to measure how effective the Foundation’s lessons have been.

365 teachers responded to the approximately 1,300 survey invitations that were sent out. The results were illuminating- and very encouraging. We’d like to share with you a few examples.

  • 94% of the teachers either agreed or strongly agreed with the question, “Do you think the online melanoma lessons have changed your students’ perception of melanoma?”
  • 23% responded that, due to the MEF lessons, they or a family found a melanoma or other type of skin cancer. That number translates to nearly 80 people who otherwise may not have caught their cancers.
  • After being shown the lessons, the teachers stated that nearly 300 students would use more sunscreen, and over 200 would stop using tanning beds. That is tremendous; tanning beds are a figurative cancer on society, and a literal one on their users.
  • 319 teachers out of 332 replied that they view the lessons as either favorable or highly favorable. We’ll let those number speak for themselves.
  • 313 out of 334 educators said that their students’ attention spans during the lessons were either good or excellent.
  • 225 answered yes, they or a family member had been examined by a dermatologist due to the lessons.

These numbers are fantastic; they validate the effectiveness of the melanoma lessons. Moreover, they can also be used as a tool to recruit additional health educators into the program. Each one who opts to participate carries with him or her the potential to save multiple lives.

We would also like to offer a special thank you to Marissa for her hard work and her dedication to the Cause.

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Vitamin D and Sun Exposure

There is, to some extent, confusion within the public as to whether sun exposure is needed to obtain the amount of Vitamin D sufficient to meet our bodily requirements. And, if it is; how much? If this includes you, we’re glad you’re here. At the Melanoma Education Foundation, education is literally our middle name.

The type of Vitamin D humans need to process calcium and maintain healthy bones is known officially as Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). And as long as you provide your body with an adequate amount, sun exposure for the purposes of acquiring Vitamin D is unnecessary.

The time required to spend in the sun to get it is minimal. (3-4 minutes on exposed arms a few times each week) Most of us will likely satisfy that requirement merely by going about our daily tasks, jobs and errands. The issue is, those who are unaware of that may spend much more time outdoors than they have to. And that will lead to sun skin damage.

How Are We Sure We’re Getting Enough Vitamin D, or Too Much, from Supplements?

These pair of quotes from the cited Melanoma Education Foundation article on the subject will provide a handy reference on recommended amounts for now and in the future. For easy access, simply bookmark this post.

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) recommends 400 – 800 iu (international units) daily depending on age, with 400 iu for infants and 800 iu for seniors over 70 and older. Some agencies in other countries recommend higher doses, up to 1000 iu daily.

The maximum safe daily dose of Vitamin D3 is currently 2000 iu (FNB). Exceeding that amount is believed to cause adverse health effects.

So, What Can We Use as a Vitamin D Substitute?

The simplest answer is likely one that has often stared you right in the face. Supplements are available all over; pharmacies, groceries stores, dollar stores and vitamin shops.

Certain common foods are also a useful source. Milk is great. A few examples cited in the same source material from above are “oil-rich seafoods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, catfish and oysters.If you don’t like those foods, supplements are the way to go.

It’s important to know that Vitamin D supplements provide us with the same Vitamin D that our bodies themselves produce. Both supplements and sunlight generate the same result; they just arrive at it from different directions. Vitamin D3 supplements are manufactured by extracting DHC (Dehydrocholesterol) from sheepskin, and then exposing it to UVB radiation. The DHC already present in our skin changes to Vitamin D3 after it’s exposed to the sun’s UVB radiation.

With both methods delivering equal results, supplements prove to be the much better choice because they remove the risks of skin damage or cancer that come with sun exposure.

Tanning Beds

For numerous reasons, the use of a tanning bed is always a horrible idea. However, we’ll mostly focus on those relevant to the topic of this blog post. Tanning beds provide users with little-to-no Vitamin D. What they do provide to their users in abundance, though, are high doses of harmful UVA radiation.

That UVA radiation greatly increases the risks of skin cancer and deadly melanoma, and at the very least will cause some level of sun skin damage. Tanning beds are a dangerous scourge that serve no useful purpose- other than as income generators for their owners at the expense of their customers’ healthy skin. Don’t buy into that industry’s misleading hyperbole. Those beds should be completely and permanently avoided by everyone.

Please remember, the dangers you subject yourself to by trying to get Vitamin D through sunlight outweigh the potential health benefits.

*Additional source articles: Melanoma Education Foundation (Steve Fine), Ods.od.nih.gov (National Institutes of Health)

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

One of the most important tasks we face in helping to spread melanoma awareness and education, is to relieve people of the notion that the disease only impacts Caucasians and other pale-toned ethnicities. That’s simply not true. Melanoma is a color-blind, unbiased menace to people of all ethnic backgrounds. With that in mind, the focus of today’s topic will be Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM).

ALM is a symptom-free branch of melanoma that is most common in blacks, Hispanics and Asians; but also affects whites and other light-skinned races. (Two related forms of ALM are Subungual Melanoma and Mucosal Melanoma. The former develops underneath finger and toenails, while the latter presents on mucous membranes). Interestingly, unlike most other melanomas, the onset of ALM is not connected to exposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays.

Where does Acral Lentiginous Melanoma Develop?

ALM originates mostly on the palms of our hands, the soles of our feet or, as mentioned earlier, beneath our nails. In words, its appearance is best described by the following direct quote from the Cleveland Clinic’s cited source article linked below:

Clinically, the lesion is characterized by a tan, brown-to-black, flat macule with color variegation and irregular borders.”

To literally illustrate that statement, please view these photos of ALM and Mucosal Melanoma :

 

 

 

 

Please note that “Fingernail/Toenail Melanoma” is often mistaken for a minor injury; such as what may occur while participating in athletics, or accidentally hitting your thumb with a hammer. It may also be mistaken for a nail fungus. None of these marks should be disregarded; particularly if you don’t recall incurring an injury or fungus.

One vital thing that ALM does have in common with the more typical melanomas is that it, too, can be easily cured if it’s caught soon enough. If it’s allowed to remain untreated, it will eventually turn fatal.

So please remember, when performing your monthly skin cancer self-examination, be sure to check the bottoms of your feet. As well as between all fingers and toes.

*Additional source articles: Clevelandclinicmeded.com, MSNewsNow.com

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Ocular Melanoma

The development of the skin melanoma we are the most familiar with is usually attributed to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. And with good reason. Those dangerous rays are its primary cause; and by a large margin.

However, not every type of melanoma’s origins fall under the purview of our sun. Ocular melanoma, an affliction almost always confined to adults, is one such exception. Although, as with skin melanoma, pale-toned (and blue-eyed) individuals, and those with atypical mole syndrome, are its most frequent victims.

What is Ocular Melanoma?

Ocular melanoma (Officially, Uveal melanoma) is a rare form of eye cancer. It’s a belligerent cancer that can develop anywhere within a trio of sections inside the eye, (Iris, ciliary body, choroid or posterior uvea). Except for iris melanoma it’s difficult to detect and, unless highly-advanced, it’s usually painless.

This picture shows an example of Ocular Melanoma in the iris:

Unfortunately, unlike its skin melanoma cousin, most ocular melanomas don’t give advanced notice of their arrivals.

Medical science has yet to peg down the reason(s) for ocular melanoma’s existence; nor the catalyst(s) that trigger it. And even though new techniques are continually being developed to fight it, it will still become fatal to half of those whom it impacts.

Diagnosing Ocular Melanoma

Of the three sections of the eye mentioned above, only melanoma of the iris can be self-detected. The other types can be detected by a routine eye exam. As a result, ophthalmologists recommend scheduling an eye exam annually.

As eyes are very sensitive areas, it’s understandable that, initially, many people may find the idea of an ocular melanoma exam undesirable. However, there is no need for that.

Please note that (excluding the need for a biopsy, or an injection of highlighting dye into the arm) nearly all the tools an ophthalmologist has at his or her disposal for use in diagnosing this disease are non-invasive. Biopsies are very uncommon and rarely ordered.

A diagram of the eye: 

*Additional source articles: Ocularmelanoma.org, Cancer.org, Aao.org

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Normal Moles vs. Atypical Moles

When a person begins educating him or herself about melanoma, some of the first relevant information they’ll come across will be on moles. They’re very important, as 90% of all melanomas begin on the skin and pretty much everyone has them.

Although you’ve surely seen them countless times, you may not be aware that there are two types: normal moles, and atypical moles. (Officially, dysplastic nevi).

Atypical moles have a much greater chance to develop into melanoma than do normal moles. The odds are about 1 in 100 with the former; yet fewer than 1 in 3,000 with the latter. Those who have an atypical mole(s) carry a stronger risk of melanoma. Incidentally, the appearance of hair on any mole is medically irrelevant. It carries no weight with regard to an increased risk of skin cancer.

No one should ever try to tell the two apart without a biopsy; as even a dermatologist cannot be certain without one. However, they do have some distinguishing characteristics that (in general) helps to tell them apart.

For instance, normal moles maintain the same color (most often brown), are round, oval, and sometimes domed in shape. They have well-defined borders and are less than a quarter-inch wide.

These are two examples of normal moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

Atypical moles are wider than a quarter-inch and may be multi-colored (brown or pink). They have uneven borders and an irregular shape. Raised dysplastic nevi display a “fried egg” look.

These are two examples of atypical moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

One thing they both do have in common is that their surface areas are usually smooth or cauliflower in texture.

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome is a disorder that is passed along through our genes. If any close relatives (immediate family but also including grandparents, uncles and aunts) have or have had melanoma and if a large number of atypical moles are present, there’s a high risk of developing the disease.

While monthly self-examination is important for every person of either gender, all races and skin tones, it’s even more vital to those with Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome.

These is an example of Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome:

 

 

 

*Additional source articles: Cancer.gov, Emedicine.medscape.com

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

 

 

 

 

 

Appearance Limitations in the Self-Detection of Melanoma

You’re probably already familiar with the saying, looks can be deceiving. Well, that old proverb becomes somewhat more tangible when it’s applied to the subject of melanoma.

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

That question doesn’t really have an easy answer. It’s somewhat akin to being asked to describe a typical Rorschach ink blot.

The truth is that melanomas can appear with a variety of looks. For instance, when several melanoma patients were asked to describe theirs, a wide assortment of answers were given. They can show up in different shapes, colors and textures. They may itch or not; secrete fluids or not. Some even match the color of the skin, while others look like a normal mole.

In fact, some moles that look awful can actually be harmless. And some that look harmless might turn out to be cancerous.

For example, below are some photographs to help illustrate. The one on the left seems to be little more than the result of an injury, or maybe nail fungus. The patient had it checked out and it was indeed melanoma. The photo on the right depicts an unsightly, even frightening-looking skin blemish. Yet, it was totally benign.

 

 

 

 

So How do I Know Which Skin Changes to Bring to My Doctor’s Attention?

This one’s easy. You don’t try and distinguish whether a skin issue is malignant or benign on your own. You would want to bring any new moles, blemishes or changes to existing moles to the attention of your dermatologist. Let them make the determination.

Out of Sight, but Keep in Mind…

There is no question that the vast majority of melanomas develop, and are easily spotted, on the skin. And most often by the patient first, before his or her doctor does. However, up to 10% of them are initially discovered in one or more of our other organs (skin is the body’s largest organ) or in a lymph node(s); with minimal to no outwardly visible mark or blemish.

There are dermatologists who theorize that these are due to melanomas that were not totally excised. Or “regression”; the belief that some melanoma cells made it into the bloodstream before the body’s natural defenses destroyed the cells that were on the skin. In other words, (non-medical jargon), the patient’s immune system closed the barn door after the horses had gotten out.

The photo below is one example of a melanoma with a “partial regression”

 

 

 

 

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma