At Vanguard, we spend an incredible amount of time discussing the dangers of melanoma skin cancer. Many of these conversations are had behind closed doors during one-on-one exams with our patients. We also strive to educate the public through blogs, local news segments, and annual events and fundraisers.
The reason we tend to give melanoma so much attention is the sheer scope of yearly melanoma diagnoses and the inherent dangers they pose. And now we are faced with an additional challenge that creates an even greater sense of urgency for sharing our message to all who are able to hear it: melanoma-related deaths are on the rise.
The Latest Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics
The Skin Cancer Foundation recently updated their website to include new and troubling data collected over the past several months. According to their findings, “the number of melanoma deaths is expected to increase in 2023 by 4.4 percent.”While the findings also state the number of overall melanoma diagnoses is expected to decrease in 2023, the reasons for this aren’t as positive as the numbers suggest.
The fact that more people are dying from melanoma while less people are being diagnosed points to an extremely dangerous trend. In the past few years, yearly examinations have suffered due to a lower rate of skin screenings during the pandemic. Skin cancer lesions which, under normal circumstances, likely would have been detected and treated early have gone unchecked.
The pandemic is surely not the only cause for this growing trend. In fact, over the past decade (2013 – 2023), the number of new invasive melanoma cases annually has increased by 27 percent.
Early Detection and Treatment of Melanoma
Although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, early detection and treatment still goes a long way in reducing mortality and keeping patients healthy. While in later stages, melanoma can spread to other areas of the body, including organs, in its initial stages it is typically isolated to a specific area of the skin. Prompt treatment can result in the complete removal and remission of melanoma. The longer a patient goes undiagnosed, however, greatly decreases the cure rate of this form of skin cancer.
Tips for Preventing Melanoma and Other Forms of Skin Cancer
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, “the vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.”
To help patients safeguard themselves from this statistic, there are a few tips we suggest. The first, and easiest, is to avoid unprotected exposure to the sun. This doesn’t mean shutting yourself away from daylight, but it does mean wearing clothing with a high sun protection factor and—most crucially—applying sunscreen daily. Mineral-based broad-spectrum sunscreens (such as clara’sUV Luxe and UV Luxe+) protect from both UVA and UVB rays without the use of potentially harmful chemical ingredients (as an added bonus, these sunscreens are reef-safe, making them ideal choices for beach vacations). In addition, using a daily antioxidant gel or serum helps boost the overall effectiveness of sunscreens while protecting users from free radicals, oxidative stress, and environmental pollutants.
In addition to at-home daily practices, it is essential that everyone schedule an annual full body skin exam with their dermatologist, as many skin cancer lesions can easily be confused for common moles by the untrained eye.
Our Team Takes Skin Cancer Very Seriously
Clinical Manager at Vanguard Skin Specialists, Jessie Stanek, explains why and how our staff members prioritize melanoma treatment. She states, “Our Vanguard providers take melanoma seriously and prioritize getting patients in quickly if they have a concern for skin cancer. Our providers reserve time on their schedules each week just for people who have a changing mole or spot that they’re worried about, to make sure we can get people in quickly for evaluation. This means that our providers save time each day to make sure they can see patients within a week to check concerning spots. Additionally, our surgeons schedule melanoma patients within a week to make sure patients receive fast treatment following their melanoma diagnosis.”
Jessie sums up her thoughts by highlighting a key value we hold at Vanguard: that patients should be cared for like family. In closing, “Our team takes skin cancer very seriously, and everyone from our scheduling team to our provider team prioritizes getting patients with changing moles in quickly for faster diagnosis and treatment.”
See A Dermatologist if You Have a New or Changing Lesion or Mole
Dr. Renata Prado, who is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon, shares her advice on identifying and understanding the formation and severity of this type of skin cancer:
“Melanoma is typically an irregular, asymmetrical brown spot with more than one shade of color. The ABCDE method of identifying melanoma includes A for asymmetry, B for ill-defined or irregular borders, C for variated colors, D for adiameter greater than a pencil eraser, and E for anevolving or changing site. Rarely, melanomas can be skin colored and not pigmented (called amelanotic melanoma) and,therefore, may be more difficult to detect. If you develop any new lesion or mole that is changing size, shape, or color,” she continues, “you should see a dermatologist. A board-certified dermatologist is trained to spot suspicious lesions when doing a full body exam, which literally involves looking from head to toe, followed by diagnosing through biopsy and then treatment.”
How Does Melanoma Form?
As for the causes of melanoma, Dr. Prado shares that “Current research points to a combination of family history, genetics, and environmental factors. Therefore, even areas that are not sun exposed can develop cancer and should be checked. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either by sun exposure or by artificial sources such as tanning beds, is considered the most important risk factor. Research suggests that nearly 90% of cutaneous melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.”
Finally, Dr. Prado summarizes her views on melanoma by highlighting its severity. She states, “Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer because of how fast it spreads to other parts of the body. It accounts for only 2% of skin cancer cases but is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. This year, more than 180,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States, and 8,000 people will die from it. Fortunately, for the first time, the survival rate is improving due to advances in treatment of advanced melanoma.”
Schedule Your Screening with a Vanguard Dermatologist Today
If it has been a year or longer since your last skin cancer screening, or if you have any new or changing lesions or moles that concern you, contact Vanguard Skin Specialists today at (719)355-1585 or by filling out our online appointment request form.