It is very important to have any suspicious new and pre-existing moles or skin growths checked out by a dermatologist in a timely fashion. However, it’s also important to understand that suspicious-appearing growth often turn out to be either benign, or a lesser form of skin cancer, than the potentially lethal melanoma.
This blog post focuses on 5 different forms of black skin growths that are not melanoma.
While its name may sound frightening, these waxy-textured skin growths are common in people who are middle-aged or older. They most often appear on the head and neck, but they can develop in any are except the palms and soles of the feet.
Nevi is just the medical term for the common mole. These most-often benign, isolated moles range from smooth to slightly elevated. They usually develop on the head, neck, back, palms and soles.
Black Skin Tags
Skin tags are those annoying (yet perfectly harmless) soft, mushroom-shaped protuberances that are often found on the neck or armpits. Nearly all of them will match your skin’s hue; but some change to black, and a few are black from the very start of development.
If a skin tag turns black, it’s due to a lack of oxygen and it will usually fall off within a week or two. While there are many ways to successfully deal with skin tags, some people have them removed with liquid nitrogen or tie them off with a strand of thread.
Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN)
DPN is another quite common condition. It consists of multiple small, benign skin lesions visible on the face that begin most often in puberty, and predominantly affect dark skin-toned individuals.
Pigmented Basal Cell Carcinoma (PBCC)
As with Seborrheic Keratosis, Basal Cell Carcinoma sounds much worse than it actually is. It rarely, if ever, metastasizes (spreads to other areas of the body). PBCC can affect both light and dark-skinned individuals.
Please remember (and also let others know) that skin conditions, whether cancerous or not, do not discriminate; they can impact anyone of any skin color. Unfortunately for skin cancer, and positively for us, public education combined with the efforts of medical science will ultimately be its downfall.
The clock is ticking on melanoma; it’s only a matter of time.
In the 19th century, they were called “Snake-Oil Salesmen”; men who traveled from town-to-town pitching useless beverages that they touted as the cure for whatever ails you. They still exist today, except they’re now called “scammers”. And in our contemporary times, they have a wide variety of much more effective tools at their disposal.
Times and technology may have changed; but the practice of morally-divested people trying to scam the public for personal profit has not. Sometimes, despicably, they’re willing to endanger the health of others for money.
Accept No Substitutes
The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has blown the whistle on multiple companies that sell tablets with the promise of protecting those who use them from the effects (including skin cancer and the potentially lethal melanoma) of the sun’s harmful UV rays. The FDA has, thankfully and publicly, lowered the boom on the following companies because their pills offer as much skin protection as eating a Tic Tac would. In other words, they offer none.
- “Advanced Skin Brightening Formula – made by GliSODin Skin Nutrients, of Toronto, Ontario
- Sunsafe Rx – made by Napa Valley Bioscience, of Santa Monica, CA
- Solaricare – made by Pharmacy Direct, Inc., of Dover, DE
- Sunergetic – made by Sunergized LLC, of Woodbury, NY”*
Per the cited source article, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb made his point clearly and concisely with this statement: “There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.” And if there ever is, the FDA will officially let us all know.
Blanket of Insecurity
It’s human nature to believe that, if a product is widely available for sale, it must’ve been approved by some federal agency. But if that were true, you’d never see an (involuntarily) bald man anywhere.
If a person buys a fake watch on a city street, the most it costs him or her is some money lost with a free lesson thrown in. However, to trust your health to a useless medication can cost you your life.
Most people are inherently good, and as such can’t fathom that others might try to profit off risking their health. Unfortunately, those type of people, and companies, are out there. The good news is that today’s tech can work for us, too. Before entrusting your skin’s health (or any other area) to a seemingly magic bean, do some quick online research. Whatever the product, there are sure to be numerous reviews, opinions and/or facts posted about it.
If you’re tanning, either naturally like this person below, artificially (tanning beds), or even out in the sun at all, your best defense is properly applied (and frequently re-applied) sunscreen.
Spending a few minutes to verify health claims is the best investment you can possibly make.
Source article and photo credit: American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org)No Clean Pill of Health: A Skin Cancer Scam
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. Fortunately, efforts to increase public education on the disease by medical science, foundations and affected citizens (who today are all helped greatly by the power of social media) continue to raise awareness levels. However, there is still a long way to go; including myths to dispel and key areas of skin cancer education to focus on.
A Show of Hands
The primary source of harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays is the sun; but it’s not the only one as tanning beds are equally dangerous. More recently, another threat to our skin’s health has emerged. Many women have transitioned over from using traditional nail polish to gel polish. Gel polish is more resilient, while also offering a more appealing look than its predecessor can.
The health issue isn’t with the polish itself, but rather the method employed to cure (dry, set in place) it. Both the conventional and LED lamps most manicurists use to cure gel polish project a powerful blast of UVA radiation onto the nails and fingers. These rays can, have and will continue to cause melanoma both under nails and on the skin of the fingers that surrounds them.
The Power of Popularity
Often, a disease we’re aware of, but has not yet impacted us in some personal way, will simply exist on the outskirts of our consciousness. And it remains there until it either does personally affect us, or a celebrity brings it to our national attention.
The current Miss Illinois is 20-year old Karolina Jasko, who will be representing that state in the upcoming Miss USA Pageant. Jasko is selflessly using her public platform to make others aware of her plight. At 18, her doctor informed her that she had developed melanoma under one of her fingernails.
She wants to make it known to as many people as she can reach that the curing process is probably to blame for her skin cancer, stating, “The doctor said I most likely got it from getting my nails done from the nail salon from getting acrylics from the light.”
Hers is an important message. Because while all melanoma education and awareness advocates have the same goal of educating the public, celebrity voices always resonate louder. Jasko’s efforts are commendable.
No matter how much new information on the dangers of any vice (tanning, smoking, etc.) are released publicly, there will always be people willing to take the associated risks. But there are ways to provide yourself with some protection if you opt to continue the unsafe practice of gel curing.
Use sunscreen or protective gloves (with open ends for nails) to at least protect the skin on the fingers from UV exposure during the curing process.
Aspirin, a derivative of tree bark, has in one form or another been used to reduce pain in people for millennia. More recently, medical science has learned of its ability to help prevent heart attacks and ward off some cancers. However, new research has revealed an awful side-effect for men who take aspirin on a regular basis.
While melanoma doesn’t discriminate based on gender, aspirin evidently does. A study referenced within the Oncology Nurse Advisor article cited below indicates that a consistent use of aspirin potentially doubles the odds of developing melanoma in the men who do so. The research also showed that the practice had no perceivable impact on women. While there are theories as to why that might be, nothing has yet been proven.
To obtain this information, “researchers accessed the Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse to evaluate the health outcomes of nearly 200,000 patients from metropolitan Chicago and the surrounding areas. Eligible patients were between the ages of 18 and 89, had no previous history of melanoma, and had follow-up data of at least 5 years after continuous once-daily aspirin use for 1 year or more. Of the study participants chronically exposed to aspirin, 26 (2.2%) of 1187 developed melanoma. Contrarily, of the nearly 194,000 patients in the study who did not take aspirin, only 1675 (0.86%) developed melanoma.”
A Slippery Slope
Although this new data may be alarming, if you’ve been advised to consume aspirin regularly, please continue to do so. If you have concerns, instead of stopping the medication you should discuss them directly with your dermatologist and doctor. Only a trained medical professional is qualified to determine the best course of action for his or her patient.
Regardless of what medication you’ve been prescribed (if any), it’s still vital to take the proper precautions to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays and to perform monthly skin self-examinations.
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 has often been said that dogs are Man’s Best Friend. But the truth is that, within the world of medicine, they’re everyone’s best friend.
The Sweet Smell of Success
There have been, and continue to be, many research studies and documented accounts on dogs who were/are able to smell skin cancer and melanoma on their owners and cancer patients.
And with their owners they’ll not only sniff it out, they’ll then continually pester them until they go and have it checked out by a dermatologist. Not a bad return on some affectionate petting and a few Scooby Snacks.
This ability, known medically as “canine olfactory detection” can also be positively manipulated by training dogs to detect other cancers such as of the lung, breast and prostate, to name just a few. It truly is amazing that, no matter how fast the technical achievements of medical science improve and evolve, Mother Nature still reigns supreme.
Scents and Scents-ability
Dogs possess over 200 million more smell-receptor cells than that of their human counterparts. This includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as dimethydisulfide and isoamyl alcohol.
Those two VOCs are released from melanomas at all stages and have been verified by high-sensitivity instruments. As a result, this incredible ability that is impossible for humans to perform, is routine for canines.
Meet Claire (a British animal behavioral psychologist) and Daisy, the pet dog who saved her life.
(Photo credit: DailyMail.com)
Dogs can detect cancer by sniffing urine, breath, and skin among other items. A patient doesn’t even have to be present. He or she need only provide a medical sample that can later be presented to a trained dog for olfactory inspection.
It’s Only Common Scents
Of course, it’s both impractical and expensive to train thousands of dogs to sniff out various illnesses, particularly within hospital/medical office settings. However, they are integral in helping medical science continue to progress on the creation of artificial scent-receptors that will have capabilities similar to those of their canine counterparts.
It makes sense, really. We’ve had CAT scans for years; it’s about time dog scans had their turn.
While this is all excellent news, it’s important to keep in mind that many people don’t own dogs. And it’s unwise for those who do to now think, “Rover hasn’t focused his attention on any particular area recently, so I must be cancer-free.”
It is vital to take a quick 10 minutes each month to continue to performing your skin self-exams. They’re far more reliable at detecting melanoma than depending on Fido to be your primary oncological diagnostician.
In one of our previous, similar posts, ‘Normal Moles vs. Atypical Moles’, we discussed that titular subject. In today’s post, our focus will be on comparing atypical moles with melanoma.
What are Atypical Moles?
Many people know that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. But what are atypical moles? Are they cancerous?
Atypical moles (known in medical terms as dysplastic nevi) are similar to common moles in that melanoma usually does not develop in either. However, as we’ll expand on below, their presence is an indicator of an increased melanoma risk in general.
Atypical moles are usually larger than common moles, as well as differing in color (ranging from pink to dark-brown), shape (often irregular), and border with surrounding skin (often fuzzy).
While common moles are generally round or oval, atypicals may look more like a picture from a Rorschach inkblot test.
Turn and Face the Change
David Bowie’s hit song also provides us with some excellent skin care advice. Atypical moles are rarely removed because the procedure isn’t necessary. Nor would excision reduce the risk of converting them to melanoma by very much. However…
If you notice any change in an atypical mole (or in any mole, for that matter) during one of your highly-recommend monthly skin self-exams, it’s important to have it checked by a dermatologist as soon as possible. That means any change, including in size, color, texture, shape, or height. Also, if it turns hard/lumpy, or begins bleeding, itching or oozing.
Just the FAQ’s, Ma’am (or Sir), Just the FAQ’s
Here are a few other things you should know about atypical moles:
- The risk of melanoma increases 10-fold in people who have 5 or more atypical moles. Although it usually arises in clear skin rather than in an atypical mole. Atypical moles serve as markers for melanoma risk.
- The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates that 2-8% of the current U.S. population has atypical moles
- No matter what an atypical mole looks like, judging it to be benign or malignant just on its’ appearance is an unreliable method of determining if melanoma is present. Even a trained dermatologist can’t make that determination just by viewing it. The only way to ensure a correct diagnosis is through a biopsy followed by a pathological examination
- As with any other moles or skin cancers, atypicals can appear anywhere on the skin. This includes under the hair (scalp) and areas of skin that rarely, if ever, see the light of day
- People with an abnormal number of moles, atypical or otherwise, should be even more careful about exposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. Exposing moles to UV radiation, whether from the sun or tanning lamps, is dangerous.
Severely atypical moles, such as the one on the left, are even more challenging to distinguish from melanomas. The right image was a melanoma. As a result, dermatologists generally treat severely atypical moles the same way as melanomas.
Atypical Moles vs. Melanoma
Additional source articles: Ncbi.gov, Common Moles, Dysplastic Nevi and Risk of 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.
The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) is proud to be entering our 8th straight year as an official charity partner of the New York Road Runners Association (NYRR).
In 2017, the prestigious New York City Marathon was also the world’s largest. The tremendous amount of overall participation, national interest and substantial media coverage will once again combine to make the NYC Marathon an excellent platform from which to showcase our melanoma skin cancer education programs.
There are only 3 ways to enter the 2018 marathon. Be an elite runner, win a spot in the lottery that was held on February 28th, or run to support a charity. If you’re pinning your hopes to your name being drawn, you may have a better chance to win the actual lottery. Only 17% of applicants will find February 28th to be their lucky day. That is where we come in.
Run for the Money
We’re a non-profit organization whose only concern; only reason for existence, is to educate people as much as possible about melanoma until the inevitable day when medical science learns how to destroy it.
At just $2,500, in 2018 NYRR has set the lowest minimum contribution requirement to enter the NYC Marathon. Additionally, MEF itself will pay the $295 entry fee for each runner; a deal unmatched by few other charities, if any.
Very often, good people who perform some action, or donate money for charity, are left with no idea about whether what they’ve done has had any impact. This picture is proof positive that contributions have made a world of difference:
Middle school student Adrianna (on left), and high school student Mary (on right), are both alive today because they found melanomas early enough to save their lives after their schools presented our MEF lessons to them. Contributions made by NYC Marathon runners helped make results like this possible.
These runners, and all of those who’ve contributed, and continue to contribute going forward, have done their parts to help save countless young lives. And not only their lives, but those of teachers, friends and family who they’ve helped to teach what to look for. Sooner or later, skin cancer education will put melanoma down for the count. And not a moment too soon.
Save Lives from Melanoma by Running the New York City Marathon
For more information about running the NYC Marathon, please visit our website for application details.