Melanoma–What is it, and who does it affect?

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VIDEO: Melanoma--What is it, and who does it affect?

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Skin Cancer is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for only about 1-percent of skin cancers, but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

Anyone can get skin cancer, and it can show up anywhere on your body. And living on the Gulf Coast, we all know about skin cancer– but are we doing enough to protect ourselves?

“We probably see at least 50 skin cancers a week if not more and I would not be surprised if we see new patients with melanoma at least once or twice a week,” said Dr. Amy Morris, Board Certified Dermatologist with The Center for Dermatology.

And some people are at a greater risk for developing skin cancer.

“Fair skin and blue eyes because we cannot protect our skin as well as those with pigment in their skin, and when you get a tan, any time your skin is darkening, that’s actually showing damage to your skin,” Dr. Morris told News 5.

Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in white Americans than in African Americans, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune if you have darker skin.

“African Americans can get skin cancer, although rarer than those that are fair skinned. Bob Marley actually had melanoma and died of malignant melanoma at the age of 36,” said Dr. Morris.

And melanoma is starting to show up more in younger adults.

Dr. Morris told Cherish Lombard, “Melanoma’s increasing in incidence and melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults ages 25-29. And those women that are 15-29, melanoma is increasing in that age group.”

She believes that’s most likely secondary to tanning beds. So she says whether you get your color in a tanning bed or from the sun, there’s no such thing as a “healthy tan.” So protecting your skin should start early.

Dr. Morris said, “If we get our children in the habit of wearing sun protective clothing like rash guards and sunglasses and wide brim hats that will create a nice healthy habit for them in the future.”

And she encourages everyone to make broad spectrum sunscreen part of your daily routine.

She said, “Some patients tell me that they’re not out in the sun. And they might not be out at the beach sitting in the sun, but they do have daily sun exposure. They go grocery shopping, they drive in their car, they’re in a parking lot, they talk to their neighbors outside in their front yard, and all of that sun exposure is cumulative. And the skin is kind of like an elephant and it doesn’t forget any of the exposure.”

Dr. Morris says if you’ve had five sunburns in your life, you more than double your risk of getting melanoma as an adult.


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