People avoid the doctor for various reason. Most of the time, it might be true that what is not causing pain is not dangerous, but there are some cases in which it is necessary to visit the doctor, even if you are not sick.
According to the American Academy of dermatology, dermatologists treat more than 3,000 diseases. Besides being well versed in a variety of skin ailments, dermatologists are specialized to detect small changes and irregularities in seemingly common freckles and moles that could, in fact, be the most common cancer: skin cancer. There are more skin cancer diagnoses per year than all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime. It is well known that most skin cancers are the result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, some skin cancers are due to viruses or random genetic mutations, so even a new spot in an area not exposed to the sun deserves attention.
There many different kinds of skin cancer, the most common of which are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma has the highest mortality rate of the previously listed three cancers because of its ability to easily invade other organ systems. An estimated 87,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2017. An estimated 10,000 people will die of melanoma in 2017. One person dies of melanoma every 54 minutes. And those statistics keep rising. While melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, it accounts for the most skin cancer deaths.
The majority of melanoma deaths are among Caucasians, and about two thirds of these were men, but it can occur in any race. Women are more likely to be diagnosed before the age of 49, while men most often find themselves with a diagnosis at age 50 and older.
Why is there an age difference for the diagnosis of melanoma between men and women?
The earlier risk of skin cancer for women could be due to sun tanning and using tanning beds. It is postulated that women would have melanoma risks later in life if activities such as tanning were more limited in their earlier years. Luckily, women are more likely to follow sun safety precautions in their 40s and 50s to prevent further signs of aging and limit skin cancer risk. Women tend to be particularly proactive as they age.
Detecting Melanoma Early: Have Someone Watch Your Back
The good news is that most melanomas and skin cancers in general can easily be treated and cured if detected early. Melanoma is most common on the areas that often require an additional set of eyes. Your back, shoulders, and back of the legs, are the most common sites. The scalp is a common spot as well. Having a spouse or board certified dermatologist looking at the areas that you cannot see well is a good idea.