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Protect the Skin You're In

Protect the Skin You're In

Protect the Skin You’re In

Consider this shocking statistic:

  • One American dies of melanoma every hour.

The Skin Cancer Foundation additionally reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. And – in the United States this year alone – it’s estimated that more than 10,000 deaths will be attributed to melanoma, and some 76,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed.

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. With summer’s hot days soon to be in full swing, ATRIO Health Plans is sharing information about this potentially fatal skin cancer and how to reduce your risk.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing tanning cells. Melanomas may suddenly appear without warning, but also can develop from or near a mole, and can occur anywhere on the body.

There are four major types of melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common. Generally black and brown in color, this melanoma is usually flat and irregularly shaped.
  • Nodular melanoma usually starts as a raised area that is dark blackish-blue or bluish-red. However, some do not have any color.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma primarily occurs in the elderly. It is most common in sun-damaged skin on the face, neck, and arms. Typically, the abnormal skin areas are large, flat and tan, accompanied by areas of brown.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma is the least common form. It most often appears on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is more prevalent among African Americans.

Risk Factors

The major environmental risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to the sun's damaging rays, known as ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Additionally, people with the following characteristics have the highest risk for melanoma:

  • Fair complexions that burn or blister easily;
  • Blond or red hair;
  • Blue, green, or gray eyes;
  • Excessive sun exposure during childhood and teen years, resulting in blistering and sunburns before age 18;
  • Family history of melanoma;
  • More than 100 moles; 50 if you are under age 20.


While melanoma can be fatal – if detected early – it often can be treated successfully.

The best line of defense is prevention. The American Melanoma Foundation offers these sun-protection tips:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest;
  • Keep very young children (six months old or less) out of the sun;
  • Wear a sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF (30 or higher for children), even on cloudy days;
  • Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, especially exercising or swimming;
  • Be sure your sunglasses have UVA and UVB protection, which should filter at least 80 percent of the sun's rays;
  • In addition to sunscreen and sunglasses, outdoor wear also should include a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants;
  • Don’t use tanning beds.

You also should regularly check your skin for abnormalities. Specifically:

  • Learn where your birthmarks, spots, and moles are and what they usually look and feel like;
  • Check for anything new – a sore that doesn’t heal, a mole that bleeds, or any new growths.

If you discover any changes, see a doctor immediately.