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Health Team

Skin cancer can strike young, old

Posted April 13, 2011

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— Mollie Bleu Mitchiner, 22, is living proof that awareness and early detection are the keys to surviving skin cancer, especially the most dangerous form, melanoma.

Mitchiner said she never lay out in the sun, "but in high school, I used to tan in the tanning beds before prom to get a little color."

So when a mole on her neck began to change color and itch, she went to the doctor, who had it biopsied.

"They called me about a week later and told me it was melanoma, and I had no idea what melanoma was," she said.

Melanoma is the most potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

skin cancer Skin cancer can strike young, old

"It occurs in about one in 75 people will have a melanoma in their lifetime, so they're not rare," said dermatologist Dr. Tom Andrus. "But they're detectable, and they're curable as long as we find them early."

Melanoma spots can even appear in parts of the body that don't usually get exposed to the sun much, such as the scalp under hair.

"We'll see melanoma arise on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet," Andrus said. 

New spots on the skin don't necessarily mean cancer, but patients can't be certain unless the spot is biopsied. Any spot that raises a question in a person's mind should be checked by a doctor or dermatologist.

Keep track of the moles and freckles on your skin, and keep an eye on your loved ones as well.

To tell if a spot is skin cancer or just a mole gone bad, look for the ABCDs: If the spot is asymmetrical, has irregular borders and changes in color and diameter, it is likely cancer.

Dermatologists can also do full-body mapping, so they can track changes in different spots.

Fair-skinned people with light-colored eyes are most at risk, but skin cancers, including melanomas, have been known to appear on the skin of even African-Americans.

"Go to the doctor and make sure that you keep an eye on all of your moles and freckles, because you are never too young for skin cancer," Mitchiner said.

She had her melanoma surgically removed and is more diligent about using sunscreen and limiting her time in the sun.

11 Comments

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  • THE ETERNAL Apr 18, 6:40 p.m.

    gograssmasters,you are so right. A lack of being in the sun is a cause.

  • johnsonj98 Apr 18, 5:52 p.m.

    Skin cancer has a cure. Go to
    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional
    Pay special attention to the preclinical section. After that look up "Rick Simpson's Oil"
    You all will be shocked!

  • carrboroyouth Apr 18, 12:07 p.m.

    I'm with JAT - how do you not know what melanoma is?

  • Casu-Al Apr 15, 6:22 p.m.

    To hiness58...I have an awareness campaign for Melanoma in my brother's memory on a blogsite. I doubt that a link is allowed in this forum, but search for "black is the new pink" on Facebook and you might find it. And whether one believes that skin cancer is caused by sun or chemicals (which technically are ALL around us...including that keyboard you're using), it's simply important to be checked for the presence of skin cancer.

  • gograssmasters Apr 15, 4:35 p.m.

    Skin Cancer does not come from the sun... It comes from all the chemicals you put on your body daily.(bodywash, soaps suntan lotion cologne).. God Made the sun.... Man made the chemicals.

  • The Fox Apr 15, 11:34 a.m.

    After 6 decades in the sun I went to a dermatologist about a mole. He did a full body scan. It's worth having done folks, if anything for the peace of mind.

  • hiness58 Apr 15, 10:43 a.m.

    TO Casu-Al, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. That is why I try so hard to push people to understand. They don't have a clue. I know now.
    I really wish Rite Aid would advertise that earlier so that I could send EVERYONE! I tracked it last year and obviously missed it this year!

  • hiness58 Apr 15, 10:41 a.m.

    EVERYONE is so unaware. I suntanned when I was young, but was stupid enought to go to the tanning booth at 40-46. At 46 was diagnosed with Melanoma on my heel. They took most of the back of my foot right down to the Achilles tendon. I'm a very lucky girl. I have a wonderful surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist that still sees me yearly and a dermatologist that checks me every 6 months for new places and my lymph nodes. But I can't imagine what these girls and guys that start at 18 and suntan in the tanning booth are going to look like, if they live to see 46! People are SOOOO unaware And I was too. I knew what Melanoma was, but until the doctor called and told me I had it and started looking at the internet and seeing that the odds if it had spread, weren't all that great, I had no real clue!

  • Casu-Al Apr 14, 3:21 p.m.

    Don't be surprised that some people, even 22 don't know what Melanoma is. Maybe people think that skin cancer, including melanoma is "no big deal" and can be simply removed. It's far more dangerous than that...with an average of one person per hour dying from melanoma cancer in the US! My brother had melanoma 7 years ago successfully removed..and he felt guilty to be called a "cancer survivor"..thinking it was no big deal. Last August, it reappeared and metastasized to Stage 4 and he died 3 months later. Serious business.

    Ironically, the Skin Cancer Foundation's Road to Healthy Skin Tour Mobile Exam RV is at the Rite Aid on Edwards Mill Road today providing FREE skin screenings. I went yesterday and takes only about 30 minutes tops. I recommend that anyone go...it's worth it.

  • JordanvsBird Apr 14, 11:33 a.m.

    I was 30 when I was diagnosed. I blame multiple burns caused by long days out in the sun fishing.

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