How to cut your risk of malignant melanoma in half
HOUSTON – Sandi Wolosz is a self-proclaimed sun lover.
Four decades ago, she had her first scare with skin cancer.
She described the day she discovered it.
"I was getting my hair done, and I had a lesion mole on my scalp, and my sister used to cut my hair, and she said, 'That's not looking good. You have a scab on it,'" Wolosz said.
That lesion turned out to be malignant melanoma. Now, Wolosz is diligent about doing biannual skin checks.
"I've had many friends die of melanoma from a thing on their face where they've had the whole chunk cut out, and I was very lucky," she said.
About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanoma skin cancers are associated with sun exposure.
This year, an estimated 100,000 Americans, more than ever before, will be diagnosed with melanoma. But, dermatologist Leyda Bowes said fewer will die from the disease.
"The message is getting out there. This is why even nationally, we're seeing way more cases. About 98% of these patients will be fine once we remove the melanoma," Bowes said.
Bowes encourages patients to protect their skin.
"Sunscreen is very important, but more and more, we want people to use products made of two compounds that are found in many many brands, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide," Bowes said.
Regular use of a sunscreen with sun-blocking ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide with an SPF of 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
Wolosz never goes outdoors without making sure she's properly protected and encourages everyone she knows to keep an eye on their skin and get anything abnormal checked.
"Especially if you see a lesion or anything, go right away (to the doctor), don't mess around with it," Bowes said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information
In 2015, the latest year for which incidence data are available, 80,442 new cases of melanomas of the skin were reported, and 8,885 people died of melanomas of the skin in the United States. For every 100,000 people, 22 new melanomas of the skin cases were reported and two people died of cancer.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. One of every 4 deaths in the United States is due to cancer.
More than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer were treated in over 3.3 million people in the U.S. in 2012, the most recent year new statistics were available.
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.
One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.3.
Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for nonmelanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.
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