We have learned so much through the years about how we can live a healthy lifestyle and prevent major health risks that we are predisposed for. However, we have to stay up to date on information if we want to protect ourselves and our family.
According to an article from Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, "Melanoma is much more common in whites than in other ethnic groups. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing melanoma is about 2.4% in Caucasians, 0.1% in Blacks, and 0.5% in Hispanics." Nevertheless, does this mean that the other populations should not worry about this affecting them?
The article also states that the incidence of melanoma increases with age with the average age of melanoma diagnosis being age 60. It also states that, "melanoma is approximately 1.5 times more frequent in males than females. It has been shown that the incidence rate does not significantly differ until the age of 40, however, after age 75, the incidence becomes almost three times higher in males compared to females. In addition, the frequency of its occurrence is closely associated with the constitutive color of the skin and depends on the geographical zone."
So what does this information mean?
We have to all protect ourselves from skin cancer no matter our ethnicity and skin tone as best as we can. Why? It is better to have primary prevention than need to address something when it is too late.
Bob Marley's story
Did you know what killed the Reggae artist legend at the young age of 36?
If you guessed skin cancer, you are CORRECT.
Many of you know Bob Marley's music and the lasting impression he left on the world being a Jamaican musician that took the hearts of many through infusing his music with a sense of spirituality.
Although Bob Marley's official cause of death was brain cancer, the disease started in the big toe of his right foot! As it turns out his big toe was infected "on and off" for years. The doctor at the time removed his nail, bandaged up his toe, and sent him off on his way without conducting a biopsy.
Marley then re-injured his toe playing soccer. He went to another doctor and he was alarmed at his condition and ordered a biopsy immediately. The biopsy revealed the injury that did not heal was a malignant melanoma. Marley was advised to have his toe amputated to prevent the spread of this aggressive cancer. He declined surgery. After his tour ended, he went to Miami and sought out a second opinion by another doctor who confirmed the diagnosis of the malignant melanoma being an acral lentiginous melanoma.
After a considerable amount of convincing, Marley agreed to a surgical excision to remove the cancerous tissue. The operation and subsequent skin and tissue graft were performed by the renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Baker, at Miami’s Cedars of Lebanon hospital.
Upon further examination, it was revealed that the cancer in Marley’s toe had spread to his lungs, liver, and brain. He submitted to a brief bout of radiation therapy but went home to Jamaica before treatment was completed.
Although very rare, the acral lentiginous melanoma that led to Marley’s death at age 36 is an aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer that can be treated in its earliest stages. It is the most commonly diagnosed subtype of melanoma in non-Caucasian patients, and it is most likely to be diagnosed in the seventh decade of life.
According to an article in Cureus, "Acral lentiginous melanoma represents approximately 5% of melanomas diagnosed each year. It is found on the palms, soles, and in association with the nail unit."
Believe it or not, in my 12 years of being in the medical field so far , I have ran into this malignant melanoma in the Operating Room ONCE already and could not believe that this was a form of cancer when I saw it because it looked like a bruise on a toe nail!
What do you do to prevent skin cancer?
According to American Academy of Dermatology, "Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun's UVB rays."
Things to remember:
-Reapply after hours of use indicated on manufacturer instructions of use- consider sweating/playing sports, water activities.
- Waiting times after putting on and doing water activities
-It's important to wear sunscreen during all seasons including winter and not just the summer.
See Sun Protection Tips article for more information on types of sunscreen and tips!
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