American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has taken an initiative to create awareness about increased prevalence of skin cancers by endorsing the activities beneficial for early detection and treatment of the disease. They have declared ‘May’ as the month for skin cancer awareness and have launched free screening service named as ‘SPOTme skin cancer screenings’ along with other tools and tips for encouraging people for self-skin examinations and dermatological screening procedures. Special emphasis is also on Melanoma Monday — a term founded by AAD in 1984 that has been dedicated to the First Monday of the month of May for carrying out different awareness activities for skin melanomas.
The campaign encourages community programs and events, and learning about skin cancers and melanomas. AAD calls general public for joining in this positive initiative by wearing orange and encouraging others to wear orange for skin cancer awareness. Another important part of the awareness campaign is the involvement of professionals and public through social media including two Twitter hashtags: ‘#LookingGoodin2016’ and ‘#MelanomaMonday’. It is expected to take part in various events aimed at skin care prevention, which can either be by tweeting about #MelanomaMonday or #LookingGoodin2016 to show support against melanomas and skin cancer or by coming out to the free screening programs and getting checked.
Dermatologists are also playing a substantial role by volunteering their time and expertise to provide free diagnostic services organized in different areas of the country. Another useful step taken by AAD is the recruitment of dermatologists and other professionals to share their thoughts about the issue and provide useful insights about how proper skin care can be ensured, by free screening checkups along with hash tagging on social media. The comments from the professionals are also made available in a section on the website of American Academy of Dermatology. The organization also provides the option for submission of useful information on an online forum and general public is also allowed to share their cancer related stories online.
One of the doctors, Dr Rajiv Nijhawan wrote: “I make sure my patients’ skin is #LookingGoodin2016 by recommending reapplying sunscreen (broad-spectrum, SPF 30+) every two hours,” He believes that application of sunscreen only once in the morning is not enough.
One of the cancer patients urged people to get timely diagnosis and said, “I would ask everyone to make sure their skin is #LookingGoodin2016. In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma: a tough and relentless disease. Protect your skin and check it regularly.”
Another positive feature introduced by AAD as a continuation of awareness campaign is the facility provided by them on their website for finding the nearest cancer screening facility named as “Find a Dermatologist tool” which allows people to search for and be notified by email of free skin cancer screenings in their locality.
Skin Care Foundation of America defines melanoma as the most dangerous type of skin cancers that are mostly caused by harmful UV radiations of the sun or may be acquired from the artificial tanning techniques on tanning beds. Scientifically speaking these cancerous outgrowths develop when the UV rays cause mutations leading to unrepaired DNA damage in the cells of the body. The tumor formation starts in the pigment producing cells of the body — the melanocytes, located in the basal layer of the skin i.e., the epidermis. The DNA damage caused by the condition is permanent and can be genetically transferred to the next generation. Therefore, individuals who have family history of melanomas are more prone to developing these cancers by direct unprotected exposure to the UV rays from the sun.
It is advised to look out for any abnormal looking bump or mole on the body as the melanomas which are tumors are similar to moles or develop from moles. Melanomas differ in shapes, color and sizes; mostly they are found to be either black or brown but can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanomas are pronounced as the underlying reason for the death of approximately 10,130 people in the US annually, according to American Skin Care Foundation.
The emphasis on the awareness practices against skin cancers and melanomas has dramatically increased over the years due to the fact that early diagnosis and treatment of melanomas can result in complete eradication of this disease which otherwise, if left untreated, can be fatal by spreading to other parts of the body. Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen instead of moisturizer for protection from sun, along with avoiding direct contact of body parts with the sun for reducing chances of skin cancers and melanomas.
An interesting fact about melanomas is that it is not the most common type of the skin cancers yet it is responsible for the most deaths associated with skin cancers. According to estimates if proper care and timely diagnosis along with treatment is not done for these cancers, the number would rise to 76,380 cases of melanomas, with about 46,870 in males and 29,510 in women in 2016.
On the other hand, skin care cancers are the most prevalent type of cancers in the U.S and 1 in 5 individuals develop these in their lifetime. The common types of skin cancers, according to AAD, are: aactinic keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. The BCC and SCC are the most common forms of skin cancer which can be cured up to 95 percent with early detection and proper treatment. AAD recommends for regular self-skin exams followed by a yearly examination by a dermatologist for early diagnosis of skin cancers.
It should be noted that ‘Melanoma Monday’ is an internationally organized event. The Canadian Dermatology Association formally pronounced the adoption of Melanoma Monday in Canada in 2012. The Canadian organization plans to formally celebrate this event every year in order to raise awareness about the seriousness of melanoma and to educate people about the risk associated with the disease and the measures to prevent them.