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Melanoma and the Colorado sun

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the average annual number of adults treated for skin cancer was 3.4 million in 2002 and 4.9 million in 2011.Skin cancer is of particular concern in Colorado because of the elevation, said Dr. Kevin Whaley with Summit Dermatology. ìWeíre high in elevation; and, for every 1,000 feet you go up, you lose 6 to 7 percent of the protection naturally provided by the atmosphere,î he said.Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, said Dr. Michael Leslie with Vanguard Dermatology. ìThis is one of the rare cancers that is increasing in number these days,î he said. ìAn estimated 120,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2015. About 10,000 people die from it per year.îBoth Whaley and Leslie said they use the ABCDEs of melanoma to help determine whether a skin lesion or mole is melanoma. A lesion could be melanoma, if it meets all of the following:A ñ asymmetricalB ñ border is uneven, notched or fuzzyC ñ color is uniform with no variations like blacks, reds or whitesD ñ diameter is bigger than about one quarter of an inchE ñ evolving and changing in any way, including size, color and shapeìIf you see something that meets the ABCDE criteria, it doesnít mean itís bad but you should probably get it checked out,î Whaley said.ìEarly sun exposure, especially sunburns that blister can increase your risk of getting melanoma. You should use sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. Try to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Make sure to reapply sunscreen. A lot of people donít put enough of it on so they donít get the full SPF value. I would recommend putting it on about 30 minutes before going outside.îSunscreens that include helioplex and thelios ingredients lasts longer on the skin, Whaley said.While overexposure to sunlight can lead to melanoma or other types of skin cancer, genetics equates for more than half the risk of developing melanoma, Whaley said. ìThe biggest risk factors for getting melanoma are genetic,î he said. ìIf your immediate family members like your parents, children and siblings have it, that increases your risk.îWhaley said having irregular moles also increases the risk of developing melanoma so those moles need to be checked on a regular basis. ìSome melanomas grow sideways or radially, and others grow deeper,î he said. ìDeeper melanomas worsen your odds of beating it.îThe most common areas for women to develop melanoma is on their legs, while the most common places for men is on their back, Leslie said.Whaley said it is a common misconception that people cannot get a sunburn on the palms of their hands or the soles of their feet, so any skin cancer-related risk is slim. ìYou can still get melanoma on your palms or your feet,î he said. ìIíve had people who have had melanoma under their toenails.îFor more superficial melanomas, the typical treatment is excision in an area slightly larger than the lesion, Leslie said. ìThat can be done under local anesthetic in the office,î he said. ìFor more invasive types, newer treatments have been developed that target certain cell-signaling molecules, which is much more effective than chemotherapy.îìYour prognosis can be greatly improved if you get early screening. Early detection is the key.î

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