“When It Rains It Pours And When It Shines You Get Melanoma” (Sol Luckman)5 years ago | Cancer
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
With a crazy presidential election and all the activity and drama in the White House, you may not have heard of Proclamation 9581, which on March 31st declared the month of April as National Cancer Control Month.
The document from the Executive Office of the President reads, “[b]ecause of the toll cancer imposes on our citizens, families, and communities, as well as the importance of promoting prevention and early detection, my Administration wholeheartedly concurs in the request of the Congress, that dates back to 1938…”
Yes, that’s right. 1938! This proclamation has been made yearly by every president since Roosevelt.
Along with creating more awareness surrounding prevention and early detection of cancer, the proclamation strives to honor those who lost their lives to or survived cancer.
With summer fast approaching, what better time to be aware of and proactive about skin cancers like melanoma, which is now the fastest growing cancer in the United States. Excessive sun exposure is generally a cause of skin cancer in addition to genetics or radiation treatments.
It is estimated 1 in 50 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma. According to the American Cancer Society, each year there are just as many new cases of melanoma as there are AIDS cases. On top of that, the Society reports there have been no major advances in medical treatment of melanoma or an improvement in the survival rate for the last 30 years.
Melanoma accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths even though it accounts for approximately only 1% of skin cancers. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports, “[f]rom ages 15-39, men are 55 percent more likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age group.” The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 55.
Perhaps the “poster boy” for melanoma is reggae music legend Bob Marley. Marley suspected a dark spot underneath his toenail was just an injury from playing soccer. It was actually melanoma. Due to religious reasons, he refused doctors’ orders to have his toe amputated. The cancer eventually spread, and Marley died in 1981 of a brain tumor at the young age of 36. As it turned out, Marley had a rare form of melanoma which develops on hairless skin, such as under the nails, on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands.
Earlier this year, 30-year-old Danielle Janofsky, six months pregnant with her second child, complained of abdominal pain. Doctors discovered she had melanoma that had spread to her liver, kidney, stomach and brain.
About two weeks later after Janofsky received her devastating diagnosis, she delivered her son via C-section and died just a couple of days after the baby was born.
Janofsky had a history with skin cancer. She was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2015 and had a mole removed from her shoulder. The report says her husband said at this time Janofsky had a good prognosis, and she was proactive by visiting a dermatologist every three months for skin check-ups.
Despite the unfortunate outcome for Marley and Janofsky, many others have survived melanoma diagnoses.
Football fans might remember former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who led his team to three super bowl victories. He was lucky enough to have two sisters who were nurses, and they told him to get a mole they discovered on his upper back checked. The mole was successfully removed, and he was diagnosed with early stage melanoma, which did not metastasize or spread.
Similarly, ABC news anchor, Sam Donaldson was diagnosed with melanoma in the mid 90’s. He discovered a mole which changed colors in 1988 and had it removed. Doctors determined from the pathology reports this mole was not melanoma. Seven years later while he was showering, he noticed an egg sized lump in his groin. This time the biopsy results were positive for melanoma, but fortunately the cancer had not metastasized. He had the tumor successfully removed, and he is alive today.
So how can we be proactive about melanoma?
- Know the symptoms.
- A new spot or spot on the skin that is changing in size, shape or color
- A sore that does not heal
- Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
- If you notice something on your body that does not look normal, do not shrug it off as an injury or sign of aging. To see what melanoma may look like read here. Ask a partner or friend to check for moles that may not easily be visible to you.
- Limit exposure to sun when possible and wear appropriate sunscreen and hats.
- Consider visiting a dermatologist and getting regular skin check-ups as a necessary part of your proactive health regimen. Dermatologists also volunteer their time and expertise to provide SPOTme® skin cancer screenings. This is a FREE service offered through the American Academy of Dermatology, an organization “committed to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage…” For more information, click here.
- You may even be able to help protect yourself against skin cancer through diet. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports nutrients and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin A and folic acid may help protect against skin cancer. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study which suggests your daily coffee or tea habit may benefit you with anticarcinogenic effects and reduce your risk of developing melanoma. To find out more about how diet and minerals can help protect you from cancer and other diseases, check out our recent book Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.
- According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer generally develops during a woman’s childbearing years. “Today, more women between the ages of 20 and 40 are getting melanoma,” AAD reports. This might be a reason for pregnant women to be especially aware of the signs of melanoma and be proactive.
Skin is our body’s largest organ, so let’s take good care of it especially as we approach the summer months and spend more time outdoors! Prevention is ideal, but regular check-ups and early detection are very critical to saving lives.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.