It Can Happen to Anybody

Written by Paul Davis on April 10, 2011, 4:34 p.m.

noteA year and a half ago while shaving, I noticed a tiny black spot on my left cheek I had not seen before. After a couple weeks of watching it, I decided to have it removed. Surely it was nothing. I had no family history of skin cancer. Had to be just a new freckle, but better be safe than sorry!

Then I got the phone call from my surgeon friend. Melanoma! A dangerous terrorist had gotten under my skin!

But I wasn't one of those guys who spent a lot of time in the sun! Sure, I had golfed several times without sunscreen, lounged around the pool trying to get a tan, even gone to the tanning bed a few times. And of course, I'd had my fair share of sunburns in my younger days like every other kid.

Melanoma: it's one of the fastest growing cancers in America as far as number of new cases, second only to esophageal cancer. And it's also one of the most dangerous, especially if not found early. I was lucky mine was on my face. If it had been on my back, I would never have noticed it until too late.

As a physician, I know all too well how fatal melanoma can be. This is serious stuff folks, so check out some sobering facts.

Melanoma statistics:

-In 2009, 121,840 new cases, 68,720 are invasive. Estimated deaths in 2009 from melanoma: 8,650
-The incidence rate for melanoma has more than doubled since 1973
-Median age is 59 but 25% are under age 40
-second most common cancer in women between ages 20-35 and the leading cause of cancer death in      women ages 25-30.
-Risk factors: UV light exposure, either from sun or tanning beds. Fair skin, living at higher altitudes (UV      increases 4-5% for every 1,000 feet above sea level). Presence of other autoimmune diseases. People with  a large number (>50) of moles.

Melanoma prevention:
    -Limit UV exposure as much as possible. Use liberal high SPF sunscreen and protective clothing.
    -Look at your moles regularly for any signs of change
    -Have a yearly "mole check" with your doctor
The good news? If you find a melanoma early, before it spreads to the lymph nodes, your survival rate approaches 99% after 5 years..

In summary…do as I say, not as I did. It could save your life!