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

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

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

In-Situ Melanoma

In-Situ (In place) Melanoma is also known as Stage 0 Melanoma and Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle. The latter is in honor of Sir John Hutchinson, who provided its inaugural description in the late 19th century.

While our fervent goal is to continually help prevent people from developing melanoma, if you are diagnosed with it, this is the type you’d prefer. As with burns (1st, 2nd, 3rd degree) and golf scores, with melanoma the lower number you have the better.

What are In-Situ Melanomas?

In-Situ are radial melanomas that stay within the skin’s thin top layer. Unlike their far more dangerous cousins, they don’t penetrate the epidermis and spread throughout the body. They don’t move. Hence, in place.

They’re also very easy to see, and have nearly a 100% cure rate. Typically, a doctor simply removes them right in his or her office. And that’s that.

These are two examples of In-Situ Melanomas:

 

 

 

 

Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma

Lentigo Maligna is a very slow-growing (up to 20 years) In-Situ melanoma. It develops most often in older people, and within those whose vocations require a significant amount of time spent outdoors. As its primary cause is sun exposure, “Lentigos” usually occur on the areas of skin that are most prone to be impacted by the sun’s harmful UV rays. These include- but are certainly not limited to -the hands, neck and face.

Of all the In-Situ varieties, Lentigo Maligna is the least likely to convert to an aggressive, potentially lethal skin cancer. If it does however, it becomes Lentigo Maligna Melanoma. If Lentigos are allowed to reach this invasive melanoma stage, the matter grows much more serious.

Unlike the aforementioned Lentigo Maligna, Lentigo Maligna Melanoma is not a simple out-patient procedure. It requires surgery during which the surgeon will remove the affected skin entirely; along with a portion of the healthy skin that surrounds it. How it’s treated is based on what the case’s pathologist determines.

From left to right the pictures are examples of Lentigo, Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma:

 

 

 

 

While we may sound like a broken record at times, these, along with so many other skin cancer and sun skin damage issues, can be avoided merely by practicing sun-safety and monthly self-examination. Please, do it for your own sake; and for the sake of those who care about you.

Thank you.

* Additional sources: Aimatmelanoma.org, emedicine.medscape.com, Dermnetnz.org (New Zealand)

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma