“Like many young ladies, I was a tanning bed user throughout college ($19.99 a month for unlimited tanning). What started as a couple of times before a dance or trip, turned into a relaxing activity that I began to enjoy and do more regularly. I didn’t think much about it.
During a lab in physical therapy school, a professor brought a ‘funny looking’ mole on my tummy to my attention and suggested I have my general practitioner look at it the next time I went in. Little did I know she saved my life. At the age of 23, I was diagnosed with stage II malignant melanoma.
To this day, I have had a total of 38 excisions, 67 stitches, 27 dermatologist appointments, 7 abnormal pathology reports, 19 scars, and 1 chest x-ray.
… hardly worth $19.99 a month.”
Amber Mueller, Skin Cancer Survivor (American Academy of Dermatology Association)
May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month and BioIQ wants to bring awareness to the most common type of cancer which also happens to be the most preventable type of cancer.
The Bad News
As mentioned before, skin cancer is not only the most common type of cancer in the US, but it is also the most common type of cancer worldwide. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, cases of invasive melanoma increased by 31% from 2012 to 2022 and an estimated 7,650 people will die in 2022 from melanoma. Skin cancer is the most preventable type of cancer, but a lack of resources, awareness and misinformation have hindered individuals from being proactive about their skin health.
The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by excess exposure to UV Rays and while it is true that people with fairer complexations are more likely to burn and therefore more susceptible to developing skin cancer, this has also caused a dangerous spread of misinformation among communities of color.
These myths have a deadly consequence: the fatality rate of skin cancer is higher in communities with people of color. Late-stage melanoma diagnoses is more common in Black and Hispanic patients.
Why is this?
Early detection is a crucial step to have a positive skin cancer prognosis. Unfortunately, people of color have been given a false sense of immunity to skin cancer. Since they are less likely to burn, these individuals often push off checking out suspicious growths so by the time they go to a dermatologist, the skin cancer has developed into advanced stages making the odds of survival drop.
Additional factors for people of color not going to the dermatologist include a dermatologist shortage which has led to long wait times, averaging a 34 day wait for non-established patients and a 18 day wait for established patients. There is also a lack of medical training done in diagnosing skin conditions in Black patients. A US study found that 47% of dermatologist and dermatology residents feel like they received inadequate training in this area.
The Good News
There is a way to prevent skin cancer. Here are some measures you can take to protect your skin health:
- See a dermatologist once a year. This is an ideal way to ensure full body examination. Taking time away from work and other responsibilities can be difficult but it is a small price to pay for peace of mind and it could save your life and future hefty hospital bills.
- Do an at-home skin exam. Do a head-to-toe (including scalp) skin check once a month. You can use a hand mirror to view areas that are hard to see. Like the backs of your thighs. Take note of any moles or growths and watch for any change in size or color.
The ABC’s of moles and growths. It is important to note that if you have any spots that fall into any one of these categories it DOES NOT mean you have skin cancer, but it is good to take note of that specific spot and have it checked.
- Asymmetry: a growth that is not consistently or equally shaped. If split down the middle, moles and growths should (more or less) be able to mirror each other.
- Border: there should a defined border.
- Color: spots & moles should be one color.
- Diameter: spots shouldn’t be larger than 6mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).
- Evolution: keep an eye out for any evolutions or changes in appearances of moles or spots.
- Protect your skin from harmful UV Rays.
- Apply SPF 15 (or higher) sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming.
- Wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses.
Implementing these preventative measures will lead to earlier detection and an optimistic prognosis, leaving a substantial impact on all communities despite race or ethnicity. Being hyper-vigilant has and will continue to save lives by facilitating early detection and treatment.
BioIQ and DermTech Inc. are making early detection more accessible with a noninvasive at-home melanoma test. This technology allows for users to take a risk assessment, and high-risk individuals are flagged for follow-up. You can take pictures of suspicious moles, growths or spots and get connected with a board-certified dermatologist. If needed, the dermatologist can order the DermTech Melanoma test which consists of a sample collection kit that includes a DermTech Sticker. This sticker is placed on the suspicious spot and then quickly lifted which collects your skin’s genomic material.
BioIQ’s mission is to save lives by helping people all over the country detect diseases like skin cancer early and get the help they need. We partner directly with health plans, enterprise companies, and government agencies to positively affect the lives of member and employee populations. Contact us to learn more about how we can partner with you organization today.