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Can You Be Too Young for Melanoma?

Skin cancer has been on the rise for decades, due in large part to earlier and earlier exposure to harmful UV rays due to the tanning craze. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and approximately one American dies from melanoma every hour. Of all the various types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most dangerous. So is it true that no one is too young to develop melanoma or other types of skin cancer?

Causes of Melanoma

Melanoma is just one particular type of skin cancer, much like basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). However, melanoma is known as the deadliest form of skin cancer due to how rapidly it can spread through other parts of the body. While treatment for melanoma skin cancer is very successful when this type of cancer is detected early on, once it spreads to other parts of the body, the cure rates dramatically decrease.

Like all skin cancers, melanoma is caused by exposure to harmful UV rays. This exposure — which can come from the sun itself or from artificial UV light sources like tanning beds — damages the skin cells known as melanocytes. The increased skin pigment that manifests as a tan is actually a result of skin cell damage.

Who Can Get Melanoma?

Melanoma often appears in older adults over the age of 65, but more and more, it’s showing up in young people — sometimes alarmingly young. Consider these facts from The Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, but just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

  • Men aged 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer.

  • Women aged 49 and under are more likely to develop melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancers.

  • People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.

It’s clear that younger people are very much at risk for developing skin cancer early on in life, especially if they tan in the sun or in a tanning bed on a regular basis.

Skin Cancer Screenings

Annual (or more frequent) skin cancer screenings are crucial for everyone, but particularly for people with fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes, who are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, anyone who has a family or personal history of melanoma or other types of skin cancer should get skin cancer screenings at least yearly.

It’s important that you regularly check your own skin for signs of skin cancer, like changes in moles. Often, skin cancer develops in the form of a mole, so keep an eye on the shape, size, color, and border of any freckles, spots, or moles on your body. If you see a change, make an appointment with your dermatologist, and of course, always wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher in the sun.

Contact The Dermatology Group

If you’re in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and want to get a skin cancer screening, contact The Dermatology Group today for an appointment.

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