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

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

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

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

Self-examining for Early Signs of Melanoma

Self-examination is among the most vital weapons we all have in the fight against melanoma. There is no doubt that the more people the melanoma awareness community can reach with this message, the more lives it can save.

Why is Self-Examination So Important?

As that is a fair question, we’ll give you two excellent reasons. The speed at which melanoma is discovered and treated is literally the difference between life and death. If diagnosed early enough, it can be cured quite easily. If too late, it can (and will) spread throughout the body and then painfully attack our other organs until it turns fatal.

Another fact is that patients first discover their melanomas more often than their doctors will. And of course, many of us don’t visit our physicians regularly enough to depend on them to sufficiently monitor our skin.

A Few Notes About Self-examination

The good news is that self-examination is a simple process, and takes only ten minutes or so per month. For those who may need extra motivation, please note that almost every melanoma fatality could have been prevented by early self-detection.

Furthermore, around 30% of melanomas develop onto areas of our skin that are rarely, if ever, introduced to the sun. So even if you do see your doctor on a schedule, he or she likely wouldn’t examine you in some of those areas anyway. Unless you bring it to their attention.

Performing Your Self-examination

There are two main forms of melanoma: Radial and Nodular. Nodular is the less common of the two, but it’s also deadlier. And though rare, our percentage chances of developing it are much higher in our adolescence and teenage years than they are after we reach adulthood. To learn much more about nodular melanoma, please click HERE.

This is how you search for radials:

On the parts of your skin that you can easily see, (arms, front/sides of legs, between fingers, toes, palms, soles, under finger and toenails) check for any new or existing moles, blemishes and marks with irregular shapes and/or dark colors. Also, note any that turn itchy and/or begin secreting fluids.

Use the combination of a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to check your back, back of legs, ears, armpits, neck and private areas. Employ a hairdryer to move your hair around as you check over your scalp.

Here are a couple of tips to make it even easier than that:

If you have a spouse, significant other or trusted friend, ask him or her to check your back and ears.

Many of us get our hair styled or cut every month or two. If this includes you, excellent. Simply ask your barber or stylist to alert you if he or she comes across any odd marks while performing their task.

For an easy access to this process, just save and print out this diagram:

Also, please click HERE to view a short Melanoma Education Foundation YouTube video that shows the ease of self-examination:

Gender, Ethnicity and Melanoma

While it’s true that Caucasians and other pale-toned ethnicities are more likely to develop melanoma, it’s equally true that anyone of any age, gender or skin color can develop it, too. In fact, though it’s certainly more common in white people, once it appears it’s more often fatal to African-Americans.

Melanoma can begin anywhere on our bodies. If you’re a Caucasian man or woman, this diagram will show you the percentage breakdown of where it occurs:

If you’re Asian, Hispanic or African-American, it can be most commonly found on your hands, feet, toe and fingernails, and between the toes and fingers themselves. Indeed, legendary singer Bob Marley’s ultimately fatal Melanoma began in his toe.

Please, take just a few minutes out of each month to protect your health.

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

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Radial and Nodular Melanoma

Skin cancer is the world’s most common cancer, and its worst form is melanoma. Today, we’d like to talk a little bit about the two main types of melanoma: radial and nodular. You wouldn’t want to develop either, as both can end up being just as fatal. However, of the two, nodular is worse.

Nodular Melanoma

More often than not, nodular melanoma will present itself on an area of skin that was previously free of blemishes. Less common, but still feasible, is for it to piggyback onto a mole that was already there.

So, what do they look like? To borrow from one of our own two highly-informative websites, they’re often dome-shaped. Also, “The colors of nodular melanomas are usually black, blue-black, dark brown, or brown-red. However, occasionally they are red, pink, grey, flesh-tone, or light to medium brown.”

A primary difference between nodular melanoma and other skin cancers is that it starts under the skin, and as such is harder to detect at its outset. As you’ll read many times to come on this blog, as well as any other material on skin cancer that’s worth its salt, nothing is more vital to potentially curing a melanoma patient than the speed of its discovery and treatment. The last thing anyone would want to do is disregard the initial warning signs of a melanoma that gives itself a head start.

To better assist people with keeping track of what to look for, an easy way has been developed to remember the properties of a nodular melanoma. Simply use the sequential letters EFG: E = Elevated, F = Firm, G = Growing.

Once we reach adulthood, our chance of incurring a nodular melanoma drops to around 20%. However, in our pre-teen and adolescent years, those numbers hover between 40% and 60%. If you’re a parent, we urge you to keep these figures in mind and talk with your child(ren) about the importance of practicing sun-safety.

Radial Melanoma

Radial melanoma presents visibly on the surface of the skin from its very beginning. It spreads slower than the nodular version but, if ignored long enough, it too can- and often does -lead to the same ill-fated result.

Radials are asymmetrical in shape, grow larger than a pencil eraser, and can feature an array of different colors. They may also impact an existing mole. So, it’s important to alert your doctor or dermatologist if you notice a familiar mole begin to get larger, change color, texture, become itchy and/or start secreting fluids.

As radials progress, their hues turn darker. When a melanoma begins to transform on our skin from horizontal to vertical, it’s like turning over an hourglass. Sooner or later, time will run out. Time is of the essence, and monthly self-examinations are paramount.

The reason Melanoma Awareness organizations focus so much on encouraging self-examinations is because most melanomas aren’t discovered first by doctors. They’re discovered by their patients.

Of course, with that said, unless you have a Doctorate of Dermatology hanging on your wall, don’t try to self-diagnose. A skin blemish may look very similar to a picture of melanoma you find online, yet turn out to be nothing at all. Conversely, a new mark that appears normal may be anything but. Please let your doctor make the determination.

To read a melanoma overview that’s been conveniently condensed onto one page, please click here. The more you learn about melanoma, the safer you can make yourself- and anyone else you may be responsible for.

Please help us to help you. Thank you.

*Additional source articles include: Skinvision.com

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