It is heartening to see the amount of energy, research, and awareness that is being brought to bear on skin cancer, especially melanoma. We were involved in the original American Academy of Dermatology’s Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention program back in the mid-80s. Those were the days when kids and adults actively sought a tan and used products that claimed to promote tanning. Coppertone, one of the most well-known tanning lotions of the 1960s and 1970s, today touts as SPF (sun protection factor) number on its bottles.
Since then, the effort to educate has expanded. Groups like the Melanoma Research Foundation have taken up the cause, raising money to fund melanoma research and to educate people to be on the lookout for suspicious moles that may in fact be melanoma. The cast of the TV hit, “The Big Bang Theory”, recently taped a public service announcement to raise awareness of melanoma in honor of a show’s young fan who had died of the disease.
Skin cancers are the culmination of years of sun exposure so it is vital that groups educate parents to protect their children’s skin. A lifelong habit like using sunscreen must be cultivated at a young age.
For those of us who came to sunscreen later in life, it’s important to remember that while melanoma is lethal, statistics cited by experts say that 98 percent of melanoma is curable if caught at the earliest stages.
Catching melanoma early requires vigilance and diligence. Keep track of the moles you can see and have your spouse or partner help you keep track of the ones you can’t see like those on the back.
And when in doubt, have it checked out by your physician or a specialist such as a dermatologist.