Test Your Melanoma Knowledge

We’ve taken a slightly different approach with today’s blog post than what you have (and will) usually see from us; but it’ll be fun and educational.

We have prepared for you a brief, visual quiz. It’s specifically designed to demonstrate that judging a skin growth on its looks alone is simply not enough. It’s vital to regularly keep tabs on every inch of your skin, and be wary of any changes to new or existing moles that have been progressing for more than two weeks. And that’s regardless of its appearance.

Presenting the Quiz

Below, you’ll see a photo containing six numbered images of various skin growths. Three of them are benign (non-cancerous) and three are melanomas (very cancerous).

Please choose which three you believe to be the melanomas. At the very end of this post you’ll be able to view the answer key, along with the name and a description for all six images. Good luck!

The Images:

1                     2                       3

 

 

 

 

4                       5                      6

Regardless of your score, (which you’ll learn shortly) please remember what’s most important is that you’ve just helped educate yourself about melanoma! You now have information that could possibly one day help to save a life.

We very much encourage you to share this quiz with your friends, family and social media followers.

So, how did you do on our quiz? Numbers 3, 4 and 6 were the melanomas.

Here is some information about all six photos:

Their Descriptions:

  1. Lentigo. (Benign) Better known as age or liver spots, they are very common on older individuals who’ve had excessive sun-exposure.
  2. Raised mole. (Benign)
  3. Melanoma. (Malignant)
  4. Melanoma. (Malignant) Although it appears to be a normal mole, during his annual dermatology exam this patient asked his dermatologist about it and was told it was ordinary and benign. After explaining that it had been steadily increasing in size over a period of months, he requested it be excised and biopsied, anyway. The pathology report returned with a diagnosis of early melanoma. It’s for reasons like this that performing a regular self-skin exam is crucial. Regardless of a dermatologist’s ruling, patients who still have doubts, or who are left unsatisfied, must advocate on behalf of their own good health.
  5. Blue Nevus. (Benign) It carries no more risk of becoming a melanoma than any other mole does.
  6. Amelanotic (flesh colored) Nodular Melanoma. (Malignant)

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

What to do if a Suspicious Growth is Found During a Skin Self-exam

One of the major tenets essential to melanoma education is for everyone to perform regular skin self-examinations. All it entails is a few minutes once a month during which you simply check over your skin from head to toe. (And palms to soles).

No surface area of the body, nor inside the mouth, is to be excluded. A close friend, loved one or doctor can check the places you can’t; such as the back, scalp, neck, and inside and around both ears. (For information regarding the two types of melanoma, radial and nodular, please click HERE).

If your completed skin self-exam reveals nothing unusual, that’s excellent. However, if a suspicious new mole, or changes to a pre-existing one is discovered, the time to act is right away.

My Self-exam has Revealed a Suspicious Mole. What do I do?

It’s likely that your first instinct would, understandably, be to contact your general practitioner. However, call a dermatologist instead. Most family doctors receive minimal, if any, dermatological training while attending medical school. This leads to melanomas being missed or misdiagnosed in their earliest stages, which is the most crucial time to confirm them.

Some insurance companies require a referral from your primary care physician. If yours is among them, request that he or she quickly provide you with one.

What if There is a Long Wait for a Dermatologist Appointment?

If you encounter the hurdle of a weeks, or even months-long wait before a dermatologist can see you, you still have multiple choices. Contact the office and explain that the skin growth you’ve discovered resembles a melanoma, and that you don’t want to wait. You can also ask them to call you first if a previously scheduled patient cancels an appointment.

If you’re unsatisfied with what the dermatologist’s offices tells you, make an appointment with a plastic or general surgeon. Their qualifications to excise new melanomas are equal to those of dermatologists. You can often get in to see them sooner, too.

The one option to absolutely avoid is to make a distant appointment, and then just wait around for it. In the financial world, the old saying is time is money. In the world of melanoma, it’s time is mortality.

The procedure to remove an early melanoma isn’t difficult or time consuming. In fact, if it is a melanoma that has been caught soon enough, its quick removal is often the cure itself. And once the growth has been excised, be sure to instruct the surgeon or dermatologist to have a dermapathologist (rather than a general pathologist) perform the biopsy. He or she will have greater training and experience with distinguishing the subtle nuances that often occur between a benign mole and actual skin cancer.

In the 18 years since the Melanoma Education Foundation was created, no one within the organization has ever encountered a single person who has ever regretted the removal of a suspicious skin growth.

So please, don’t be shy and do be persistent. Remember, it may very well be nothing. But if it is melanoma any delay in diagnosis will increasingly begin to put your life at risk.

*Additional source: Skincheck.org(Page 5)

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

SPF is Far Less Important than How Much is Applied

Anyone with even the most basic awareness of skin cancer is likely to know that the Golden Rule of practicing sun-safety is to wear sunscreen. The only better protection from the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays is to sit inside your home with all the window shades drawn.

Unfortunately, though, there is a key piece of information regarding sunscreen of which far too many people are unaware.

Get the Maximum SPF Out of Your Sunscreen

First, if you’re a regular sunscreen user- excellent job. However, it’s equally important to apply the correct amount. This is the only way to ensure that the sun protection factor (SPF) sun-shield that you’re actually receiving is identical to what is stated on the product.

Many of us, albeit unwittingly, fall into that category. The typical wearer applies a mere 25% of what’s required to achieve a sunscreen’s full safety potential. And while 75% off may be fantastic for department store sales; it is disastrous to our skin. To illustrate further, when 25% of an SPF 100 rated sunscreen is applied, the true SPF isn’t 25- it’s only 3.2.

Anyone who spends even a brief time reading up on skin cancer and melanoma, will inevitably come across a few of the same specific comparisons used in a wide variety of materials. The one relevant to this post is that the minimum volume of sunscreen to use for each application would be enough to fill a shot glass. It’s also important that it be evenly distributed across any exposed skin, and be re-applied at a maximum of two hours. Even sooner than that if you’ve been sweating or swimming.

Speaking of the latter, spending a day at a beach or pool wearing only a swimsuit is not a good idea. However, anyone who does should use up an entire a 6-ounce container of sunscreen on him or herself by the time they leave. Do you use that much or know anyone who does?

The main point is important to reiterate: you must apply sunscreen much more heavily than that of most users to achieve the rated SPF.

Don’t just get your money’s worth of SPF; get your skin’s good health worth.

*Additional sources: Vitals.lifehacker.com, Onlinelibrary.wiley.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

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

Childhood Melanoma

Melanoma is truly an awful disease. Whether an afflicted adult ultimately survives an advanced case on not, he or she will suffer significant physical and emotional trauma throughout the entire exhaustive process. Just imagine a child having to experience that. Children, who are just getting started in the world, should never have to suddenly face their own mortality.

Unfortunately, melanoma doesn’t care. And that, along with a greater need for skin cancer awareness and education, is why we continue to lose countless brave pre-teens and adolescents. Among them are the late Jillian Beach, 15 and Bethany Cobb, 11; pictured here respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s our determined mission to do everything possible to help prevent children and their families from having to deal with this; the worst form of skin cancer. With that in mind..

Some Information on Childhood Melanoma

Melanoma can develop on anyone at any age, but there are some differences in the disease between adults and juveniles. To be more specific, we’ll turn to these quotes from the cited Dermnet of New Zealand material linked below:

Regarding children from birth up to age 10:

Superficial spreading melanoma is less common in younger children and melanoma has the ABCDE criteria in 40% of cases. Melanoma in young children is more commonly amelanotic (red coloured), nodular, and tends to be thicker at diagnosis than in older children and adults.*

It’s also important to remember that melanoma may present itself as pink or flesh-colored. This can be deceiving when looking for darker-toned moles and blemishes on light skin.

Dermnet continues with youths 11 to 18:

Melanoma in older children appears similar to melanoma in adults; it presents as a growing lesion that looks different from the child’s other lesions. Most are pigmented. About 60% have the ABCDE criteria…”*

We want to add that 40% is the rarer, yet more lethal, nodular melanoma. To learn more about that version, please click HERE.

Once melanoma is diagnosed, its potential treatment is chosen by doctors from the same pool of options used for anyone; regardless of age.

Please note that within the skin cancer community, “ABCDE” is a linguistic device used to help people remember what to look for in moles and other skin blemishes. The letters stand for the following: A= Asymmetry, B= Border, C= Color, D= Diameter, E= Evolving.

We’ve saved perhaps the most important item for last, as that way it’s more likely to be remembered. It’s so vital because everything you’ve read above can be completely avoided- if you just keep this one simple thing in mind:

The cure rate for melanoma detected early enough hovers around 100%.

In those instances, the initial (or follow-up) biopsy, (a quick procedure to remove the impacted tissue performed right in a doctor’s office) is actually the cure itself.

That means there would be no need at all for chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

In the coming weeks, you can expect to read more from us on melanoma right here on this blog. We ask only that you apply what you learn, and spread the information on to others.

It is no understatement to that if you do, you could very easily save a life.

*Additional Sources: Dermnet of New Zealand

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Introducing the Melanoma Education Foundation’s New Blog

Welcome to the Melanoma Education Foundation’s (MEF) inaugural blog post. In the weeks to come, we’ll be bringing you updates and information relevant to our foundation’s goals; as well as other news that is specific to Melanoma and skin cancer awareness.

With this initial post, however, we’d like to tell you a little about ourselves, our goals, and what to expect going forward. This is so that we may acquaint ourselves with those who are learning about us for the first time through this blog.

Our nonprofit organization was founded by Steve Fine in 1999, the year after his son Daniel tragically succumbed to Melanoma at only 26 years old.

Steve has since never wavered in his ambition to spare adolescents and teenagers from Melanoma; the worst form of skin cancer. If not caught in time, the disease is often fatal. However, if discovered in its earliest stages it can be easily cured. With Melanoma, the time it takes to detect and treat is everything; and is usually the difference between life and death.

From its beginnings, MEF learned that many health educators didn’t realize the vital importance of including information about Melanoma within their curricula. For MEF, the idea is to help teachers inform their students how to find Melanoma quickly, along with the best ways to avoid it entirely.

MEF’s goals are prominently listed on our website, skincheck.org. They are as follows:

  • Educate middle and high school health teachers and provides them with free online classroom lessons for their students.
  • Provide complete information about early self-detection and prevention of Melanoma in a user-friendly website.

 MEF’s popular The Melanoma Lessons are now taught in more than 1,700 schools all over the United States. The single-period lessons focus on early self-detection prevention of melanoma for middle and high school students. They are easy for educators to learn and easy to teach. *

With further regard to our websites; skincheck.org is a comprehensive, powerful, yet easy-to-navigate educational tool for anyone and everyone. While very similar in content, melanomaeducation.net additionally provides health educators with access to student teacher videos and lesson plans.

Both websites are packed with information about Melanoma. Included within them are its causes, prevention techniques, warning signs, statistics, how to check yourself, and much more. You’ll also find numerous relevant photographs and videos.

This blog will serve as an adjunct to our website, and focus more on singular issues each week. The basic facts about Melanoma remain relatively stationary. However, the wheels of medical science are always in motion. As we’ve all seen over the past couple of decades, they’re moving faster now than ever before. And they will move faster still. Using the massive power of social media, our posts will allow us to deliver the news of whatever breakthroughs, upgrades, or even setbacks are on the horizon, to a much larger audience.

We not only welcome you to, but encourage you to share these posts. Our only desire is to see Melanoma swept away forever into the dustbin of history. With your help, there’s no doubt that someday that day will arrive.

Thank you.

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma