Nothing is more important to the Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) than educating people on how to prevent themselves from developing this disease; especially adolescents and teens. Also, to inform them about what to look for, and then how to proceed if a melanoma is discovered.
We believe the best way to accomplish our goals is to provide melanoma and skin cancer instruction materials, information and encouragement to the teachers and parents of these students.
Recently, MEF founder and president Steve Fine was presented with a unique opportunity to gain significant insight into the MEF initiatives.
For a project assignment, a bright, young Emerson College Applied Learning Experience (ALE) student named Marissa Picerno created a web-based survey. Its purpose was to measure how effective the Foundation’s lessons have been.
365 teachers responded to the approximately 1,300 survey invitations that were sent out. The results were illuminating- and very encouraging. We’d like to share with you a few examples.
- 94% of the teachers either agreed or strongly agreed with the question, “Do you think the online melanoma lessons have changed your students’ perception of melanoma?”
- 23% responded that, due to the MEF lessons, they or a family found a melanoma or other type of skin cancer. That number translates to nearly 80 people who otherwise may not have caught their cancers.
- After being shown the lessons, the teachers stated that nearly 300 students would use more sunscreen, and over 200 would stop using tanning beds. That is tremendous; tanning beds are a figurative cancer on society, and a literal one on their users.
- 319 teachers out of 332 replied that they view the lessons as either favorable or highly favorable. We’ll let those number speak for themselves.
- 313 out of 334 educators said that their students’ attention spans during the lessons were either good or excellent.
- 225 answered yes, they or a family member had been examined by a dermatologist due to the lessons.
These numbers are fantastic; they validate the effectiveness of the melanoma lessons. Moreover, they can also be used as a tool to recruit additional health educators into the program. Each one who opts to participate carries with him or her the potential to save multiple lives.
We would also like to offer a special thank you to Marissa for her hard work and her dedication to the Cause.Teacher Survey Confirms Effectiveness of Melanoma Lessons
You’re probably already familiar with the saying, looks can be deceiving. Well, that old proverb becomes somewhat more tangible when it’s applied to the subject of melanoma.
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
That question doesn’t really have an easy answer. It’s somewhat akin to being asked to describe a typical Rorschach ink blot.
The truth is that melanomas can appear with a variety of looks. For instance, when several melanoma patients were asked to describe theirs, a wide assortment of answers were given. They can show up in different shapes, colors and textures. They may itch or not; secrete fluids or not. Some even match the color of the skin, while others look like a normal mole.
In fact, some moles that look awful can actually be harmless. And some that look harmless might turn out to be cancerous.
For example, below are some photographs to help illustrate. The one on the left seems to be little more than the result of an injury, or maybe nail fungus. The patient had it checked out and it was indeed melanoma. The photo on the right depicts an unsightly, even frightening-looking skin blemish. Yet, it was totally benign.
So How do I Know Which Skin Changes to Bring to My Doctor’s Attention?
This one’s easy. You don’t try and distinguish whether a skin issue is malignant or benign on your own. You would want to bring any new moles, blemishes or changes to existing moles to the attention of your dermatologist. Let them make the determination.
Out of Sight, but Keep in Mind…
There is no question that the vast majority of melanomas develop, and are easily spotted, on the skin. And most often by the patient first, before his or her doctor does. However, up to 10% of them are initially discovered in one or more of our other organs (skin is the body’s largest organ) or in a lymph node(s); with minimal to no outwardly visible mark or blemish.
There are dermatologists who theorize that these are due to melanomas that were not totally excised. Or “regression”; the belief that some melanoma cells made it into the bloodstream before the body’s natural defenses destroyed the cells that were on the skin. In other words, (non-medical jargon), the patient’s immune system closed the barn door after the horses had gotten out.
The photo below is one example of a melanoma with a “partial regression.”Appearance Limitations in the Self-Detection of Melanoma
Melanoma is truly an awful disease. Whether an afflicted adult ultimately survives an advanced case on not, he or she will suffer significant physical and emotional trauma throughout the entire exhaustive process. Just imagine a child having to experience that. Children, who are just getting started in the world, should never have to suddenly face their own mortality.
Unfortunately, melanoma doesn’t care. And that, along with a greater need for skin cancer awareness and education, is why we continue to lose countless brave pre-teens and adolescents. Among them are the late Jillian Beach, 15 and Bethany Cobb, 11.
It’s our determined mission to do everything possible to help prevent children and their families from having to deal with this; the worst form of skin cancer. With that in mind..
Some Information on Childhood Melanoma
Melanoma can develop on anyone at any age, but there are some differences in the disease between adults and juveniles. To be more specific, we’ll turn to these quotes from the cited Dermnet of New Zealand material linked below:
Regarding children from birth up to age 10
“Superficial spreading melanoma is less common in younger children and melanoma has the ABCDE criteria in 40% of cases. Melanoma in young children is more commonly amelanotic (red coloured), nodular, and tends to be thicker at diagnosis than in older children and adults.” *
It’s also important to remember that melanoma may present itself as pink or flesh-colored. This can be deceiving when looking for darker-toned moles and blemishes on light skin.
Dermnet continues with youths 11 to 18
“Melanoma in older children appears similar to melanoma in adults; it presents as a growing lesion that looks different from the child’s other lesions. Most are pigmented. About 60% have the ABCDE criteria…”*
We want to add that 40% is the rarer, yet more lethal, nodular melanoma. To learn more about that version, please click here.
Once melanoma is diagnosed, its potential treatment is chosen by doctors from the same pool of options used for anyone; regardless of age.
Please note that within the skin cancer community, “ABCDE” is a linguistic device used to help people remember what to look for in moles and other skin blemishes. The letters stand for the following: A= Asymmetry, B= Border, C= Color, D= Diameter, E= Evolving.
We’ve saved perhaps the most important item for last, as that way it’s more likely to be remembered. It’s so vital because everything you’ve read above can be completely avoided- if you just keep this one simple thing in mind:
The cure rate for melanoma detected early enough hovers around 100%.
In those instances, the initial (or follow-up) biopsy, (a quick procedure to remove the impacted tissue performed right in a doctor’s office) is actually the cure itself.
That means there would be no need at all for chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
In the coming weeks, you can expect to read more from us on melanoma right here on this blog. We ask only that you apply what you learn, and spread the information on to others.
It is no understatement to that if you do, you could very easily save a life.
Additional Sources: Dermnet of New Zealand
Self-examination is among the most vital weapons we all have in the fight against melanoma. There is no doubt that the more people the melanoma awareness community can reach with this message, the more lives it can save.
Why is Self-examination So Important?
As that is a fair question, we’ll give you two excellent reasons. The speed at which melanoma is discovered and treated is literally the difference between life and death. If diagnosed early enough, it can be cured quite easily. If too late, it can (and will) spread throughout the body and then painfully attack our other organs until it turns fatal.
Another fact is that patients first discover their melanomas more often than their doctors will. And of course, many of us don’t visit our physicians regularly enough to depend on them to sufficiently monitor our skin.
A Few Notes About Self-examination
The good news is that self-examination is a simple process, and takes only ten minutes or so per month. For those who may need extra motivation, please note that almost every melanoma fatality could have been prevented by early self-detection.
Furthermore, around 30% of melanomas develop onto areas of our skin that are rarely, if ever, introduced to the sun. So even if you do see your doctor on a schedule, he or she likely wouldn’t examine you in some of those areas anyway. Unless you bring it to their attention.
Performing Your Self-examination
There are two main forms of melanoma: Radial and Nodular. Nodular is the less common of the two, but it’s also deadlier. And though rare, our percentage chances of developing it are much higher in our adolescence and teenage years than they are after we reach adulthood. To learn much more about nodular melanoma, please click here.
This is how you search for radials:
On the parts of your skin that you can easily see, (arms, front/sides of legs, between fingers, toes, palms, soles, under finger and toenails) check for any new or existing moles, blemishes and marks with irregular shapes and/or dark colors. Also, note any that turn itchy and/or begin secreting fluids.
Use the combination of a full-length mirror and a hand mirror to check your back, back of legs, ears, armpits, neck and private areas. Employ a hairdryer to move your hair around as you check over your scalp.
Here are a couple of tips to make it even easier than that:
If you have a spouse, significant other or trusted friend, ask him or her to check your back and ears.
Many of us get our hair styled or cut every month or two. If this includes you, excellent. Simply ask your barber or stylist to alert you if he or she comes across any odd marks while performing their task.
For an easy access to this process, just save and print out this diagram:
Gender, Ethnicity and Melanoma
While it’s true that Caucasians and other pale-toned ethnicities are more likely to develop melanoma, it’s equally true that anyone of any age, gender or skin color can develop it, too. In fact, though it’s certainly more common in white people, once it appears it’s more often fatal to African-Americans.
Melanoma can begin anywhere on our bodies. If you’re a Caucasian man or woman, this diagram will show you the percentage breakdown of where it occurs:
If you’re Asian, Hispanic or African-American, it can be most commonly found on your hands, feet, toe and fingernails, and between the toes and fingers themselves. Indeed, legendary singer Bob Marley’s ultimately fatal Melanoma began in his toe.
Self-examining for Early Signs of Melanoma
Please, take just a few minutes out of each month to protect your health.
Welcome to the Melanoma Education Foundation’s (MEF) inaugural blog post. In the weeks to come, we’ll be bringing you updates and information relevant to our foundation’s goals; as well as other news that is specific to Melanoma and skin cancer awareness.
With this initial post, however, we’d like to tell you a little about ourselves, our goals, and what to expect going forward. This is so that we may acquaint ourselves with those who are learning about us for the first time through this blog.
Our nonprofit organization was founded by Steve Fine in 1999, the year after his son Daniel tragically succumbed to Melanoma at only 26 years old.
Steve has since never wavered in his ambition to spare adolescents and teenagers from Melanoma; the worst form of skin cancer. If not caught in time, the disease is often fatal. However, if discovered in its earliest stages it can be easily cured. With Melanoma, the time it takes to detect and treat is everything; and is usually the difference between life and death.
From its beginnings, MEF learned that many health educators didn’t realize the vital importance of including information about Melanoma within their curricula. For MEF, the idea is to help teachers inform their students how to find Melanoma quickly, along with the best ways to avoid it entirely.
MEF’s goals are prominently listed on our website, skincheck.org. They are as follows:
- Educate middle and high school health teachers and provides them with free online classroom lessons for their students.
- Provide complete information about early self-detection and prevention of Melanoma in a user-friendly website.
MEF’s popular The Melanoma Lessons are now taught in more than 1,700 schools all over the United States. The single-period lessons focus on early self-detection prevention of melanoma for middle and high school students. They are easy for educators to learn and easy to teach. *
With further regard to our websites; skincheck.org is a comprehensive, powerful, yet easy-to-navigate educational tool for anyone and everyone. While very similar in content, melanomaeducation.net additionally provides health educators with access to student teacher videos and lesson plans.
Both websites are packed with information about Melanoma. Included within them are its causes, prevention techniques, warning signs, statistics, how to check yourself, and much more. You’ll also find numerous relevant photographs and videos.
This blog will serve as an adjunct to our website, and focus more on singular issues each week. The basic facts about Melanoma remain relatively stationary. However, the wheels of medical science are always in motion. As we’ve all seen over the past couple of decades, they’re moving faster now than ever before. And they will move faster still. Using the massive power of social media, our posts will allow us to deliver the news of whatever breakthroughs, upgrades, or even setbacks are on the horizon, to a much larger audience.
We not only welcome you to, but encourage you to share these posts. Our only desire is to see Melanoma swept away forever into the dustbin of history. With your help, there’s no doubt that someday that day will arrive.
Thank you.Introducing the Melanoma Education Foundation’s New Blog