With skin cancer being the most common cancer in the United States, it is vital that awareness be raised surrounding this potentially fatal, yet preventable, disease. Skin cancer is mainly caused by ultraviolet(UV) radiation from the sun. This UV radiation is also found in tanning booths and sunlamps. There are multiple different types of skin cancer which include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Although basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma can still be an issue, they are a much less aggressive form of skin cancer in comparison to melanoma. Melanoma is a cancerous growth of melanocytes which most commonly forms on the skin but can also form in any other part of the body that contains melanocytes including the lymph nodes and digestive tract. Thankfully, digital health is now able to aid in the awareness and diagnosis of skin cancer which has significantly increased the survival rate.
What Increases Risk of Melanoma?
- Fair Skin. Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin means you have less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckle or sunburn easily, you’re more likely to develop melanoma compared to someone with a darker complexion.
- A history of sunburn. One or more severe, blistering sunburns can increase your risk of melanoma later on in life.
- Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Exposure to UV radiation, which comes from the sun and from tanning beds, can increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation.People living closer to the earth’s equator, where the sun’s rays are more direct, experience higher amounts of UV radiation than do those living in higher latitudes. Also, if you live at a high altitude, you’re exposed to more UV radiation.
- Having many moles or unusual moles. Having more than 50 ordinary moles on your body, and especially having new moles appear indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, having an unusual type of mole increases the risk of melanoma.
- A family history of melanoma. If a close relative has had melanoma, you have a greater chance of developing a melanoma, too.
- Weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems have an increased risk of skin cancer. This includes people who have HIV/AIDS and those who have undergone organ transplants.
What Are The Warning Signs?
- Asymmetry. If you draw a line through the middle of a mole that looks suspicious, and the two halves do not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, it is a warning sign for melanoma.
- Border. A benign mole has smooth, and even borders, unlike melanomas. If the borders are notched, scalloped or uneven, it could be a sign of an early melanoma.
- Color. Most benign moles are all one color, usually a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors in one mole is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
- Diameter. Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip, but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
- Evolving. Benign moles look the same over time. If a mole starts to evolve or change in any way, get it looked at by a dermatologist immediately.
How Has Digital Health Helped?
With how fast paced and busy life is today, it can be hard to get in to see a doctor immediately. This is where digital health is increasingly helping to save lives daily with apps that help diagnose different diseases including Melanoma. Because Melanoma is such an aggressive cancer, the speed at which it is discovered and treated can be the difference between life and death. With today’s technological advances the survival rate of aggressive cancers such as melanoma now have significantly increased.
This concern is being addressed by a group of dermatologists whose one aim is to help patients and ensure top notch care. Direct Dermatology, an online dermatology center, helps diagnose and save lives with 3 simple steps- describe the problem, upload pictures, and get answers. “Wait times to see a dermatologist, even in urban areas, are over a month. In rural areas it’s over six months and, in many cases, patients have no access whatsoever,” says Dr. David Wong, Direct Dermatology’s co-founder and CEO.
Another mobile app to help the diagnosis and awareness of skin cancer is Doctor Mole, which gives you a detailed mole analysis, allows you to save as many photos as you wish, and compare results. This simple to use app encourages skin cancer awareness by providing a service that is accessible and can easily be used on the go. It’s advanced technology ensures that your data is secure and analyzes and tracks over time.