The most common type of cancer in the United States is not heart or lung cancer, but rather skin cancer. Skin cancers come in a variety of forms, and there are many different signs of skin cancer. But how young is too young to develop skin cancer, especially melanoma? Let’s talk through the facts as well as what to keep an eye on.
Melanoma is one of a variety of types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This particular type of skin cancer is the most serious (and potentially deadly) form. Sadly, while it often appears in adults over 65, it also affects young people at an alarming rate.
The Moffitt Cancer Centers have stated, “According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in 15- to 19-year-olds, and the most common form of cancer affecting young adults between the ages of 25 and 29.”
Skin cancers of all kinds develop on areas of skin that have been damaged by exposure to the sun. The sun’s harmful UV rays are a major contributing factor to skin cancers like melanoma. Repeated sun exposure is detrimental to the health of the skin, but even one blistering sunburn in a lifetime can lead to skin cancer.
In young people, tanning is the most commonly cited cause of melanoma. Children who do not wear sunscreen when playing outside, as well as those who have been sunburned before, are among the highest risk populations to develop melanoma. Additionally, teens and young adults who frequently tan -- either in the sun or by artificial tanning methods like tanning beds and booths -- greatly increase their risk of developing melanoma.
Skin cancer symptoms are not always obvious, so you must be especially diligent in performing regular self-checks, particularly if you’re at risk of developing skin cancer. Because melanoma can rapidly spread to vital organs, it is very severe and may be fatal if left uncaught or untreated. However, in the earliest stages of this type of skin cancer, full treatment and recovery are typically possible.
Perform frequent self-checks to monitor the appearance of new and existing moles. Large, unusually colored, or irregularly shaped moles are often red flags for dermatologists in diagnosing melanoma. If you notice that the size, shape, or color of a mole has changed, or if any new moles have appeared on your body, see a dermatologist right away. Additionally, if a mole is bleeding, itching, or burning, it’s critical to get it checked immediately.
Melanoma can appear anywhere, but it is commonly found on the face and legs. Additionally, some people with darker skin tones can develop melanoma on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Frequent self-assessments are a good start, but if you have a family history or personal history of skin cancer of any kind, it’s important to also get your moles mapped by a dermatologist yearly or twice a year.
If you’re in the greater New York City area and are concerned you or your child might be showing signs of skin cancer or need treatment for melanoma skin cancer, contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our doctors.