Tips for avoiding melanoma
1. Particularly if you have fair skin, be careful about sun exposure, especially burns: Wear SPF 30 sunscreen (higher than that is probably not worth the price tag, dermatologists say); stay out of the sun during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest in the sky and most likely to burn, from about 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wear a hat that covers your ears.
2. Get any suspicious spots checked immediately. Skin cancer that is caught while still on the surface is easily treated; it is when the cancer spreads beneath the skin that it is most dangerous.
3. Learn to associate tan skin with skin damage rather than beauty. Just as smoking used to be considered glamorous, the public’s view of tanned skin needs to change to discourage tanning.
4. Be particularly careful about sun exposure when it’s your first time in the sun after winter, or when on spring break, as untanned skin is most likely to get burned.
Who’s at high risk for melanoma?
African-Americans get melanoma very rarely because the extra pigment in darker skin is protective. When African-Americans do get melanoma, it tends to occur on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands — areas with less pigmentation.
Older men are the most frequent victims of melanoma, particularly if they’ve spent a lot of time outdoors for work, sports, or other leisure-time activities. They often lose hair — “like me,”as they age, Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo said, which is why they tend to get cancerous growths on their head and neck.
Young, fair-skinned women run a much higher risk of melanoma than people with darker skin, and usually get melanoma on their arms and legs — the areas that are most exposed to the sun.
SOURCE: Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. First two figures on Page 17 from Hooman Khorasani; third figure from the Centers for Disease Control.