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
The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) has been making great strides throughout the United States with its middle and high school-focused skin cancer lessons. Our most recent figures show that they’re used in over 1,700 different schools; spread out over every U.S. state but one. We would very much like to keep that ball rolling. (A link to a list of those schools, as well as to actual teacher testimonials, are both provided below)
If you’re a pre-teen or adolescent health and wellness educator, we encourage you to review and present these highly-informative lessons to your classes. They are designed to be efficient, easy-to-use, and require virtually no prep work. Even better, they fit entirely into a single class period with plenty of time to spare. Both the short student and teacher-training videos have won the prestigious Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology. (AAD)
Now let’s go a little more in-depth into why these lessons are so valuable to both you and your students. Teacher surveys taken after in-class presentations of the MEF lessons reveal that due directly to them, many early melanomas were discovered by students, teachers and family members.
That is crucial, as in its earliest stages melanoma has a cure rate of nearly 100%. The more time that passes between its development and diagnosis, however, allows for the continual increase of the odds that it will become fatal.
The MEF high school lesson is currently the only one that specifically addresses nodular melanoma. Melanoma is the worst form of skin cancer, and nodular is the most lethal type of melanoma. Even worse, teenagers are particularly vulnerable to nodular, which unfortunately doesn’t typically show any of skin cancer’s familiar ABCDE signs. (A= Asymmetry, B= Border, C= Color, D= Diameter, E= Evolving)
MEF also differs from other skin cancer lessons by providing more comprehensive information, which in turn leads to more effective results. Most non-MEF lessons continue to direct their primary focus on sun-safety. They do this despite the plentiful data garnered from numerous studies that show emphasizing sun-safety has little-to-no effect on altering teen behavior patterns. In other words, teens essentially ignore it.
This approach also prevents teenagers from learning the critical fact that 30% of melanomas are not even caused by UV ray exposure. Among other risks, not having that knowledge may cause students who aren’t into tanning to skip regular skin-self exams; thinking they need not bother.
To all the health educators within sight of these words, please consider employing our lessons. The more schools that incorporate their usage, the more young lives we can all save together.
When a person begins educating him or herself about melanoma, some of the first relevant information they’ll come across will be on moles. They’re very important, as 90% of all melanomas begin on the skin and pretty much everyone has them.
Although you’ve surely seen them countless times, you may not be aware that there are two types: normal moles, and atypical moles. (Officially, dysplastic nevi).
Atypical moles have a much greater chance to develop into melanoma than do normal moles. The odds are about 1 in 100 with the former; yet fewer than 1 in 3,000 with the latter. Those who have an atypical mole(s) carry a stronger risk of melanoma. Incidentally, the appearance of hair on any mole is medically irrelevant. It carries no weight with regard to an increased risk of skin cancer.
No one should ever try to tell the two apart without a biopsy; as even a dermatologist cannot be certain without one. However, they do have some distinguishing characteristics that (in general) helps to tell them apart.
For instance, normal moles maintain the same color (most often brown), are round, oval, and sometimes domed in shape. They have well-defined borders and are less than a quarter-inch wide.
These are two examples of normal moles, both raised and flat:
Atypical moles are wider than a quarter-inch and may be multi-colored (brown or pink). They have uneven borders and an irregular shape. Raised dysplastic nevi display a “fried egg” look.
These are two examples of atypical moles, both raised and flat:
Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome
One thing they both do have in common is that their surface areas are usually smooth or cauliflower in texture.
Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome is a disorder that is passed along through our genes. If any close relatives (immediate family but also including grandparents, uncles and aunts) have or have had melanoma and if a large number of atypical moles are present, there’s a high risk of developing the disease.
While monthly self-examination is important for every person of either gender, all races and skin tones, it’s even more vital to those with Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome.
Below is an example of Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome:
In-Situ (In place) Melanoma is also known as Stage 0 Melanoma and Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle. The latter is in honor of Sir John Hutchinson, who provided its inaugural description in the late 19th century.
While our fervent goal is to continually help prevent people from developing melanoma, if you are diagnosed with it, this is the type you’d prefer. As with burns (1st, 2nd, 3rd degree) and golf scores, with melanoma the lower number you have the better.
What are In-Situ Melanomas?
In-Situ are radial melanomas that stay within the skin’s thin top layer. Unlike their far more dangerous cousins, they don’t penetrate the epidermis and spread throughout the body. They don’t move. Hence, in place.
They’re also very easy to see, and have nearly a 100% cure rate. Typically, a doctor simply removes them right in his or her office. And that’s that.
These are two examples of In-Situ Melanomas:
Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma
Lentigo Maligna is a very slow-growing (up to 20 years) In-Situ melanoma. It develops most often in older people, and within those whose vocations require a significant amount of time spent outdoors. As its primary cause is sun exposure, “Lentigos” usually occur on the areas of skin that are most prone to be impacted by the sun’s harmful UV rays. These include- but are certainly not limited to -the hands, neck and face.
Of all the In-Situ varieties, Lentigo Maligna is the least likely to convert to an aggressive, potentially lethal skin cancer. If it does however, it becomes Lentigo Maligna Melanoma. If Lentigos are allowed to reach this invasive melanoma stage, the matter grows much more serious.
Unlike the aforementioned Lentigo Maligna, Lentigo Maligna Melanoma is not a simple out-patient procedure. It requires surgery during which the surgeon will remove the affected skin entirely; along with a portion of the healthy skin that surrounds it. How it’s treated is based on what the case’s pathologist determines.
From left to right the pictures are examples of Lentigo, Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma:
While we may sound like a broken record at times, these, along with so many other skin cancer and sun skin damage issues, can be avoided merely by practicing sun-safety and monthly self-examination. Please, do it for your own sake; and for the sake of those who care about you.