There is no ineffective way to relay (accurate) information about melanoma, as discussing it with even one other person has the potential to save a life. But today’s world is a much different place than it was only a few years ago.
Now, several highly-effective ways exist with which to reach out and educate countess people instantaneously. This blog post focuses on four specific methods to get the message on melanoma out to a wide audience.
Virtual community service volunteer opportunities exist in abundance. Both teens and adults alike can provide a great service to their communities from anywhere, at any time, with nothing more than access to a computer and Microsoft Excel. All it takes is a few hours a week. To see a current list of available opportunities, simply click on this link to our VolunteerMatch.org page.
The Power of Social Media
Nothing has ever shrunk the world like social media. What once took days, weeks or even months to communicate can now reach its intended recipient(s) in mere seconds- 24/7/365. It gives health-awareness organizations an immensely powerful tool we’ve never had before.
We encourage you to view, share and refer your contacts to SkinCheck.org, a website with the most comprehensive, user-friendly information on early self-detection and prevention of melanoma ever created. You have the ability to save untold lives with the simple click of a button.
See “Spot Save”
Our “See Spot” document is a wealth of skin cancer information presented in an easy-to-read format on just one page. It includes relevant photos and is applicable to teens and adults. You can access it by clicking here, then share the link with family and friends through your email and social media accounts.
If you’re a parent, ask your middle and high school children whether they’ve received our lessons on melanoma. Teachers have confirmed to us that many students have saved their own lives by finding early melanomas, along with other skin cancers, due to learning through our lessons. They’ve also saved the lives of friends and family members simply by sharing the “See Spot” document above with them. The lessons have even saved the lives of health educators themselves.
If your child hasn’t received one of our lessons in class, please contact his or her principal and/or health teacher, and request that it be presented.
Don’t take no for an answer!
Words have tremendous power. And if you’re successful, we will both be left with the satisfaction of knowing that your conversation or email may have saved countless lives.
Not too shabby of a return on our mutual investments.Four Ways to Save Lives from Melanoma
It’s great hearing that we may be able to save some money by switching car insurance companies. But how much greater would it be to take those same 15 minutes and, with very little effort, save lives?
Hands Across America
Since 1999, the non-profit public charity Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) has worked tirelessly to educate teens about the dangers of skin cancers, as well as how to avoid them. Part of that education includes getting our free, highly-effective Melanoma Lessons into the hands of as many of our nation’s health teachers as possible.
The numbers speak for themselves. At last count, our lessons were being taught to students in over 1,700 middle and high schools across the United States. This skin cancer education has saved the lives of students, their teachers, and their friends and family. How? Because the teachers learn health information they weren’t aware of, and the students spread what they’ve learned to the people in their lives.
The goals of our mission are two-fold: teach teens how to look for and report any potential skin cancer, and teach them how they can protect themselves from getting it in the first place.
And you can help us to help them.
Volunteer to Make a Difference
We’d like to provide some information on each of the 3 ways you can help further the cause of melanoma education with us.
(Please note: Students who participate in any of the following opportunities will receive community service verification letters from the MEF for their project hours. Also, HOSA is an acronym for Health Occupation Students of America. To learn about these 3 volunteering opportunities in greater detail, please click here: VolunteerMatch).
Volunteer Opportunity 1
Share information about a one-page downloadable document on early self-detection of melanoma through social media.
(To read this highly-informative life-saving document, please click here: See Spot…Health Alert for Teens). Although originally targeted for teens it applies to adults as well.
This is available to volunteers of all ages.
Social media is an incredible tool in the battle against skin cancer that wasn’t even available at all a generation ago. The ability to reach a massive number of people over its various platforms allows melanoma education to get around the world in ways that, until recently, just weren’t available.
And few people have mastered its use more proficiently than the group in the exact age range the MEF’s Lessons were created for. That is a huge win-win for melanoma education not only in America, but all over the globe.
Volunteer Opportunity 2
Teaching other students at middle and high schools, that are not currently using the MEF Melanoma Lessons, about melanoma self-detection.
This opportunity is open to high school students and community college student volunteers.
To get students to educate other students in their schools about self-detection and risk-reduction of melanoma. This is done with minimal effort through showing those students a short 16-minute video, which we will provide to the volunteer.
Volunteer Opportunity 3
Obtaining public contact information on health teachers and HOSA faculty advisers from school websites.
This is available to people who:
- Are 14 or older
- Have a laptop, PC or tablet with either Microsoft XL or Mac Numbers installed
This can be done from anywhere at any time and involves no selling, phone calls or fundraising.
To allow the MEF to reach out to health teachers regarding our Melanoma Lessons. Every new educator who uses them equals more lives saved.15 Minutes Could Save You 15 Lives or More
We know that taking a quiz was rarely an eagerly anticipated moment during your years in school. However, this one’s different. There’s absolutely no way to fail. Even if you guess incorrectly on a question(s), you’ll still come out way ahead by having educated yourself about melanoma.
Melanoma is a potentially lethal, but mostly preventable, disease. The more you learn, the better you’ll become at protecting your skin and keeping it healthy.
Some responses contain links to other relevant blog posts. This allows us to provide more valuable information within this post in an easily accessible fashion.
True or False? (Please scroll down for the answers)
- Melanoma incidence within the U.S. is decreasing.
- For the most part, melanoma strikes males and females equally.
- While a melanoma is still in a curable stage, keeping a lookout for the ABCDE warning signs is all that you need to do.
- Sun safety lessons for teens help to cause behavioral changes that decrease their risk of melanoma, and other skin cancers.
- Using a high-SPF (Sun Protection Factor) sunscreen can significantly reduce a person’s chance of developing melanoma.
- If you find a suspicious growth during your monthly skin self-exam, you can usually get a dermatologist appointment quickly.
- Taking a Vitamin D supplement is an effective alternative to sun exposure to ensure that your Vitamin D level is sufficient.
- Melanoma seldom develops within infants, toddlers, and pre-teens.
- The incidence of melanoma is higher in the sunbelt states than it is in most northern states.
- False. The American Cancer Society projected 161,790 new melanoma cases in 2017. For 2018, the ACS projection has increased to 178,560.
- False. Until the age of 50, a greater number of females develop invasive melanoma. However, from cradle-to-grave, the rate is 53% higher in males. It is strongly believed throughout the medical community that tanning beds are partially responsible for the higher prevalence of the disease among young women.
- False. It’s just as important to check for the EFG signs of nodular melanoma.
(Note: ABCDE = ‘Asymmetrical’, ‘Border’, ‘Color’, ‘Diameter’ and ‘Evolving’. EFG = ‘Elevated’, ‘Firm’ and ‘Growing’)
- False. Numerous studies have revealed that sun-safety lessons are ineffective at getting teens to change their behavior patterns. They’re tedious, uninteresting, and teens simply ignore them.
- False. (Mostly). 99% of sunscreen users only apply 25-50% of the amount needed to achieve the rated SPF. With a 100 SPF sunscreen the true SPF values are 3.1 and 10, respectively.
- True. Because the speed of diagnosis and treatment of melanoma is essential, it’s imperative to have suspicious growths checked out as quickly as possible. There are several avenues that people can take to get themselves seen by a dermatologist in short order. To learn more about the different options that are available, please click here.
- True. Please click here to learn why.
- True. (Mostly). Please click here to learn why.
- False. Most northern states have a greater incidence of melanoma. The high-risk factor of intermittent sun exposure, and the widespread mistaken belief that cloud cover and precipitation offer adequate UV (ultraviolet) ray protection, are believed to be two big reasons for this.
Melanoma Questions: A True or False Quiz
So, how did you do? Don’t worry, whatever your score was you’ve earned an A+ today.
There is always something new to learn about melanoma, and skin cancer in general. Through this blog, we’re able to continually reach countless people with these updates and contribute to the public’s education on the subject.
We also know that it’s important to occasionally look back and help refresh memories on the basics of this disease. That’s what we’ve done here today.
Of course, we can’t fit every bit of data into a single blog post. So, we’ve focused on a few of the most important melanoma subtopics. We’re presenting this in easy-to-read bullet point form with the hope that readers will bookmark this post for easily-repeatable access.
For those who are interested in more in-depth information on a given post, each bold headline is also a clickable link directly back to the original article on its topic.
- Most dangerous of the two main types of melanoma (Radial is the other)
- Typically presents initially on previously unblemished skin
- Often dome-shaped
- Can be multiple colors, though usually black, blue-black, dark brown or brown-red
- Unlike most skin cancers, begins its development beneath the skin’s surface
- Constitutes about 20% in adults, but 40%-60% in teens, pre-teens and adolescents
- Sunscreen is an excellent skin-protector, but only if applied and re-applied correctly
- Most sunscreen users apply only 25% of the amount needed to enjoy its full protective impact
- Minimum amount to apply if wearing a bathing suit would fill a shot glass
- A sufficient amount of sunscreen must be applied evenly over all sun-exposed skin to achieve maximum effectiveness
- Sunscreen must be re-applied every two hours at minimum. More frequently if the wearer has been swimming and/or sweating
- Anyone can develop melanoma from the day he or she is born
- Up to 10 years old, melanoma is frequently red; though it can present as pink or flesh-colored
- Melanoma in 11-18-year-olds is similar in appearance to melanoma in adults
- Infants should be completely protected from the sun until they’re at least 6 months old
- Focus is on helping middle and high school health educators correctly teach their students about melanoma detection and prevention
- Research data reveals these lessons are extremely effective
- Taught in over 1,700 schools in all 50 states
- Brief and to the point to accommodate the short attention spans of young people
- More effective than sun safety-based lessons
- To learn more, teachers and parents may watch this 3-minute long introductory video. Afterward, teachers can register for totally free access to the lesson-videos and other free resources.
- Highly-effective tool for use in early melanoma detection
- Most patients discover their own melanoma before their doctors do
- Unless there’s something visually obvious or the subject is broached to them, most doctors don’t even bother checking for skin cancer during routine appointments
- 30% of melanomas develop on skin that is rarely exposed to the sun
- Once a month, check your entire body for suspicious or changing moles and skin growths. Including under the hair.
- Employ mirrors and/or a significant other/good friend to assist checking areas you cannot see
- Ask hair stylists and tattoo artists to alert you if they come across any suspicious-looking growths
- If caught early enough, melanoma’s cure rate is nearly 100%. If allowed to develop untreated, with enough time it will nearly always become fatal. Early detection is paramount.
- About 40% of tanning salons ignore state laws, and very often get away with doing so
- Tanning leads to a massive increase in the odds of developing skin cancer; especially in young women, who frequent these salons more than any other age and gender demographic
- More skin cancer is caused by tanning beds than lung cancer is caused by smoking
We encourage you to read any of the wide variety of previous posts on our blog, along with our new posts., and visit Skincheck.org for more good information on this horrible, yet mostly preventable, disease.Melanoma Potpourri
When trying to educate adolescents and teens about skin cancer, it’s very important that the information presented is not only correct, but also properly focused. Words that fall on primarily deaf ears are useless; rendering the material ineffective.
How do We Know?
The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) was founded by its president Stephen Fine in 1999, one year after his 26-year old son Daniel tragically passed away from the disease. From that day to this, Steve and the MEF have studied the most beneficial ways to get teens to absorb critical information on melanoma.
We learned long ago that concentrating on education is more impactful than research. Catching skin cancer early or preventing it before it has a chance to get started is preferable to trying to cure it long after it develops.
An excellent way to achieve that goal is give middle and high school health educators free, simple access to accurate, easily teachable information. To that end, we’ve created melanoma lessons for teachers to present to their students.
The attention span of teens has never been shorter, and few have the patience to listen intently to a long-winded monologue on a disease. That’s why it’s vital to speak to them in their own language, and make the lessons brief and easily digestible.
Our lessons were created based on the data gathered from teen focus groups. Our videos feature teens talking about their firsthand experiences directly to other teens. The MEF’s free The Melanoma Lessons are being taught in over 1,700 schools all across the United States. We know how much they’re working, too.
We’ve received hundreds of accounts and positive survey responses of melanoma being stopped dead in its tracks due to our lessons. And not only in the students themselves, but within their families. Some health educators have even saved their own lives by virtue of having information on melanoma about which they were previously unaware.
Why Are Our Melanoma Lessons More Effective than Others?
There are multiple reasons why our lessons are so successful.
- Extensive research has revealed that sun safety-based skin cancer lessons are unsuccessful in getting teens to change their behaviors toward UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.
- Other teen skin cancer and video textbook lessons provide inadequate information on melanoma in general and none on nodular, the most lethal form of melanoma that disproportionately strikes teens, pre-teens and adolescents.
- Most skin cancer lessons overstate the importance of SPF (Sun Protection Factor), which is much less important than how much sunscreen is applied. More than 99% of sunscreen users apply far too little to achieve rated SPF values.
To Both Teachers and Parents
If you’re a teacher, do your skin cancer lessons (if any are even on the itinerary) address these issues?
If you’re a parent, are you aware of what, if anything, your teens are being taught about melanoma in school?
If the answers are “no”, we invite you to take just a few brief moments to view this award-winning, 3-minute long introductory video.
After watching the video, teachers may register to access the completely free teen melanoma lessons that have been described as the most effective on the planet.
For Steve it’s personal, and he has worked nonstop to do everything possible to spare people from the pain he and so many others have endured at the hands of this horrific and unnecessary scourge. Please, help us to help you.All Skin Cancer Lessons are not Created Equal
Toenail and Fingernail Melanoma, (more commonly known as Subungual Melanoma) is a rare type of the disease that falls within the Acral Lentiginous Melanoma classification. Like Ocular Melanoma, subungual is one of the few melanomas that medical science does not believe to be caused by UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.
Where on the Body is Subungual Melanoma Located?
While SM can develop underneath any of our 20 nails, it is most commonly found under a big toenail. On our hands, it’s more likely to be found under a thumbnail.
Who Gets Subungual Melanoma?
Anyone of either gender or any color can be stricken by SM, with the same prevalence throughout all races. However, it’s the most often diagnosed melanoma among people with dark skin tones. Indeed, it was SM that claimed the life of legendary reggae singer Bob Marley at the age of 36.
What to Look for When Checking for Subungual Melanoma
SM’s appearance per the cited, source article:
“Subungual melanoma often starts as a pigment band visible the length of the nail plate (melanonychia). Over weeks to months, the pigment band:
- Becomes wider, especially at its proximal end (the end of the nail that is closest to the cuticle)
- Becomes more irregular in pigmentation including light brown, dark brown
- Extends to involve the adjacent nail fold (Hutchinson sign)
- May develop a nodule, ulcerate or bleed
- May cause thinning, cracking or distortion of the nail plate (nail dystrophy).”
These 3 photos are examples of authentic subungual melanomas:
Why are the Above Photographs referenced as “Authentic” Subungual Melanomas?
SM’s have the unfortunate characteristic of being very similar in appearance to Black Thumbnail Fungus and Subungual Hematomas. The former is a very common nail infection, and the latter is just an ordinary nail bruise. Both can be annoying and/or painful, but they are easily treatable. Whereas SM can easily be fatal if ignored after being mistaken for either.
These bruises have been incurred by countless people at one time or another. They’re obtained through accidental actions such as slamming a thumb in a door, or hitting it with a hammer. Pressure generated by the collection of blood under the nail often causes intense pain. Melanomas under the nail are usually painless unless they are late stage.
This presents another problem as many assume that if something doesn’t hurt, there’s nothing to be concerned about.
This photo is one example of a subungual hematoma:
Most nail fungus infections are yellowish, but can sometimes be black. This photo is one example of black thumbnail fungus:
As can now clearly be seen, if all these photos were presented without captions, it would be very difficult to distinguish the 2 benign conditions from the 3 potentially lethal ones above them.
It bears repeating. The single most important factor in either being cured of melanoma or dying from it, is the speed of diagnosis and treatment. With suspicious changes to the skin, nothing should ever be brushed off or assumed.
Six percent of melanomas develop on the scalp and neck but are responsible for 10% of all deaths resulting from the disease.
The specific reasons for this remain unclear, but the scientific community does have a couple of hypotheses. In most patients, abnormal moles and skin growths are hard to see because they’re covered by hair. Also, there are more blood and lymph vessels located beneath the scalp than there are anywhere else on the body. Additionally, skin cancer on a person’s scalp has a short route to his or her brain.
What Does it Look Like?
Most appear as a brownish or black spot with darker irregular colors and borders. Although most are dark, some can appear as a firm pinkish red lump. Any previously existing mole or skin growth that changes in size, texture or appearance should be considered a huge red flag.
These 2 photographs depict melanoma of the scalp:
Are There Ways to Improve the Chances of Discovering it?
Yes, there are. When doing your monthly skin self-exam use a long-handled mirror in combination with a well-lighted wall mirror. Use a hairbrush or dryer to part the hair. Be thorough. Spend the same amount of time checking under your hair as you do on all the rest of your body, combined. If you are unable to check your scalp, ask a close friend or significant other to check for you.
Ask your barber or hair stylist to alert you if he or she should notice any out-of-the-ordinary marks while cutting your hair. They’re not doctors, of course. But if something odd is discovered, a person can then quickly make an appointment with a dermatologist to have it checked out properly.
It sounds awkward, and unfortunately that can make people reluctant to ask their hairdressers to do it. That should be of absolutely no concern. It is a totally reasonable request that has become far more commonplace to workers in the industry. Some will even tell their clients if they find anything whether they initially asked them to or not.
Be sure to ask your doctor, or a nurse, to check each time you make a routine appointment. (This is in addition to what is stated above, as most people don’t see their primary care physicians monthly). Ask, because doctors typically don’t go out of their ways to look for skin cancer unless they either notice something obvious, or it’s related to the appointment.
Melanoma on the Scalp
*Additional source article: EmaxHealth.com
A few decades ago, New York-based dermatologists created a simple, effective mnemonic device to help people remember what to look for when performing their monthly skin cancer self-examinations. How simple? It’s (now) just the first 5 letters of the alphabet: ABCDE. The letters stand for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolving. Advances throughout medical science are perpetual however, and new findings will at times reveal that updates to previously-promoted public education need to be made. Skin Cancer is no exception, and this post will address one important educational update.
Nodular melanoma is the more dangerous of the two types of potentially lethal melanoma, radial and nodular. Even worse, it disproportionally affects children. 40%-60% of newly diagnosed melanomas in teens and preteens are nodular, compared to 20% in adults. (For more information, please read Radial and Nodular Melanoma).
Many people who look for nodular melanoma concentrate their focus on finding new or changing dark-hued, irregularly-shaped moles and skin growths, which is consistent with ABCDE. That is, it was– prior to a recent, vital change.
A Crucial Discovery from the Land Down Under
Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest incidence of melanoma; their citizens are 5 times more likely to develop melanoma than U.S. citizens. This gives their medical scientists significant motivation to continually try and find new breakthroughs in the fight against skin cancer.
In 2003, the head of the Victorian Melanoma Service published a summary of the research done by noted dermatologist Dr. John W. Kelly. It focused on the inadequacy of the ABCD warning signs, and advocated for the addition of EFG (Elevated, Firm, Growing) signs of nodular melanoma.
This quote from the cited source article illustrates just how vital the results of Dr. Kelly’s research is in helping both doctors and patients identify nodular melanoma:
“Nodular melanomas were mostly symmet-rical (80%), with a regular border and of single colour (78%), the majority (55%) being amelanotic. They were also more likely to be elevated (90%), weeping, crusted or tender in comparison to SSM.* Nodular melanoma are mostly red or pink in colour and if present, pigmenta-tion is usually evenly distributed throughout the lesion. They are raised from the outset and grow progressively as a round nodule.”
Additionally, some nodular melanoma can actually be pale in color. Together, all of this means that people who apply only the ABCDE principles to skin lesions may very well mistake a deadly cancer for a common, benign skin blemish. That type of error can have fatal consequences.
Upon learning the details of Dr. Kelly’s research, the Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) recognized their importance and immediately incorporated the EFG signs into its educational materials and website (skincheck.org).
The Cancer Council of Australia was slow to follow-up. But last month (October 2017) it finally changed its melanoma diagnosis guidelines for doctors. The new guidelines have been updated to include EFG warning signs in addition to the previous ABCD signs. It’s time for the U.S. to follow suit!
Please help us spread the word.
Additional source articles: Researchgate.net, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Important New Information on Spotting Nodular Melanoma
*“SSM” refers to the more common superficial spreading melanoma.
One of the more difficult tasks when educating the public about melanoma, is helping to dispel the notion that it’s a “whites only” disease. While it’s true that whites are statistically much more susceptible to melanoma, it can develop in any person from any race.
What’s also not widely known is, for various reasons, while whites are more likely to get melanoma, once contracted blacks are more likely to die from it. Black people also have a greater tendency to develop melanomas in areas that don’t often see the sun. These places include beneath toenails and fingernails and on the soles of feet. A famous example of this is popular Reggae singer Bob Marley, who died at age 36 from a melanoma that began on his big toe.
To help illuminate these points, we’re going to share the story of Jacqueline Smith, a young black woman from New Jersey whose story was chronicled by writer Kellee Terrell (cited below).
Her tale begins the same unfortunate way that the tales of too many melanoma patients do. She found a skin growth that was misdiagnosed -in her case twice- by two different doctors. This highlights the importance of seeing a dermatologist rather than a general practitioner after a suspicious skin growth is discovered. With melanoma, the speed of diagnosis and treatment means everything. And a dermatologist has much greater training and experience with skin cancer than a regular doctor does.
Fortunately, Jaqueline didn’t let it go. Upon returning home from college she got a third opinion. This time, the doctor sent her to an oncologist (a doctor whose specialty is cancer) where tests determined she had Stage 3 melanoma.
Jacqueline relates that her initial reaction to learning of her diagnosis was nearly identical to what we’ve described in our opening paragraph. She thought melanoma (skin cancer’s most lethal form) was exclusive to whites. She recalls that in grade school she was told not to bother with sunscreen, because her skin tone made sunscreen unnecessary.
A surgeon excised Jacqueline’s cancerous lymph node, but within three years her cancer returned to give her the fight of her life. She underwent more surgery and was subjected to exhaustive treatment. Her odds weren’t good. But now, a decade later, she’s beaten those odds on her long-term prognosis by 5 years.
Jacqueline still has concerns that her cancer may return one day, but they’re not slowing her down.
Like many people who experience melanoma either first-hand, or through a cherished relative or friend, she was inspired to help others learn the truth about the disease. She’s focusing on the black community, and is working hard to dispel the myth that melanoma only impacts whites.
We wish this brave young woman continued success with all of her educational efforts.
Melanoma Does Not Discriminate: The Story of Jacqueline Smith
*Information source article: “Black Woman Shares Skin Cancer Survival Story: ‘Please Don’t Think It Can’t Happen To You’”, an article written by Kellee Terrell, contributing writer to Hellobeautiful.com
There is a lot to learn about melanoma. On the surface, it’s a fairly-straightforward subject; yet it’s also one that carries with it many important subtopics. This piece consists of selections from our previously published posts on the subject.
To view the original Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) article on any of the topics below, simply click the link and you’ll be brought directly to it.
About Radial and Nodular Melanoma, the two primary forms of the worst skin cancer.
The reasons why exposing moles to sunlight is a very bad idea.
A discussion on the increased risk of melanoma to redheads.
For those with many moles, there is a tool that dermatologists can use to help keep tabs on patients’ skin health.
How to tell the difference between freckles and moles
Differentiating between normal and atypical moles.
A discussion of melanoma risk factors.
How to examine yourself for early signs of melanoma.
The differences and similarities between childhood melanoma and melanoma in adults.
Information on Acral Lentiginous Melanoma, which is more common in blacks, Hispanics and Asians than it is in whites.
The best form of the worst skin cancer.
Ocular Melanoma is a rare, deadly cancer that is not caused by UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.
A quick visual quiz that tests your ability to tell benign moles from those that are cancerous.
What to do if a suspicious growth is found during a skin self-examination.
The excellent results from teachers who were surveyed regarding the effectiveness of the Melanoma Education Foundation’s (MEF) classroom melanoma lessons.A Melanoma Menu