One of the most important tasks we face in helping to spread melanoma awareness and education, is to relieve people of the notion that the disease only impacts Caucasians and other pale-toned ethnicities. That’s simply not true. Melanoma is a color-blind, unbiased menace to people of all ethnic backgrounds. With that in mind, the focus of today’s topic will be Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM).
ALM is a symptom-free branch of melanoma that is most common in blacks, Hispanics and Asians; but also affects whites and other light-skinned races. (Two related forms of ALM are Subungual Melanoma and Mucosal Melanoma. The former develops underneath finger and toenails, while the latter presents on mucous membranes). Interestingly, unlike most other melanomas, the onset of ALM is not connected to exposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays.
Where does Acral Lentiginous Melanoma Develop?
ALM originates mostly on the palms of our hands, the soles of our feet or, as mentioned earlier, beneath our nails. In words, its appearance is best described by the following direct quote from the Cleveland Clinic’s cited source article linked below:
“Clinically, the lesion is characterized by a tan, brown-to-black, flat macule with color variegation and irregular borders.”
To literally illustrate that statement, please view these photos of ALM and Mucosal Melanoma :
Please note that “Fingernail/Toenail Melanoma” is often mistaken for a minor injury; such as what may occur while participating in athletics, or accidentally hitting your thumb with a hammer. It may also be mistaken for a nail fungus. None of these marks should be disregarded; particularly if you don’t recall incurring an injury or fungus.
One vital thing that ALM does have in common with the more typical melanomas is that it, too, can be easily cured if it’s caught soon enough. If it’s allowed to remain untreated, it will eventually turn fatal.
So please remember, when performing your monthly skin cancer self-examination, be sure to check the bottoms of your feet. As well as between all fingers and toes.
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