The Saratoga Sun -

The dangers of melanoma


Summer is here, and that means people are spending more time outdoors in the hot sun. While being outside is enjoyable, the public needs to recognize the importance of protecting their skin from harmful sun rays.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with melanoma being responsible for the most deaths with over 9,000 each year. The CDC reports that an individual dying from melanoma loses an average of 20.4 years of potential life and that the total melanoma treatment costs are about $3.3 billion annually in the United States. They also said that melanoma is the fifth most common cancer for men and is the seventh most common cancer for women.

Dr. Dean Bartholomew, of the Platte Valley Medical Clinic, said that people in Wyoming are at no higher risk of getting melanoma than anywhere else.

“Melanoma is a cancer that can partly be linked to genetic factors but mainly to sun exposure and damage,” said Bartholomew. “[To prevent the cancer], check your family history and have any questionable or changing moles checked by your doctor.”

Although melanoma is very common, there are ways to protect your skin and prevent yourself from getting the cancer. Both Bartholomew and the CDC warn that sunburns are a significant risk factor for melanoma.

“Sunburns are contributory so protecting kids from sunburns is important,” said Bartholomew. The CDC states that more than 90 percent of melanoma cases in the United States are attributed to skin cell damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. They report that nearly 40 percent of persons in the United States report a sunburn each year, indicating that many are not adequately protecting their skin from damaging UV that can cause melanoma. Sunblock will help to prevent not only melanoma, but all types of skin cancer as well.

The CDC warns of the risk of getting melanoma and recommends sun-protective behaviors such as using sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing and seeking shade.

For more information about melanoma go to the website and click on cancer or see your primary care physician.


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