Melanoma-n. 1.  –mas also –mata: a usu. malignant tumor containing dark pigment. 2. Deadly Skin Cancer. The one that won’t leave me alone.

When you get up in the morning, you get dressed, right? Shirt, pants, shoes?  You wouldn’t leave the house naked, would you? But sadly many do. Many leave the house without sunscreen. Sunscreen should be an essential part of your wardrobe.

I am a multiple melanoma (skin cancer) survivor. You never think you will ever hear the words “You have cancer” once in your life, let alone time, after time, after time, like I have. My first and most advanced was discovered during a routine annual exam. It was in the center of my back. I had no way to knowing it was there. Undetected, it would have killed me, I was only 27. I had an area the size of a small nerf football removed from my back because of a mole the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma  is the most deadly form of skin cancer. 

Here are some statistics:

  • In 2012 more than 116,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease
  • By 2012, it is estimated that one in 50 people will be diagnosed with melanoma
  • One person dies nearly EVERY HOUR from melanoma
  • Melanoma affects people of every age and every race
  • The incidence rate for children 18 and under INCREASED by 84% from 1975 to 2005

Many cases of skin cancer can be prevented and detected early.  Here are the ABCDEs of melanoma:

Asymmetry:  One half of the mole does not match the other half

Border:  The borders of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or a notch

Color:  The color of the mole is not the same throughout. There may be brown, black, red, blue, or white.

Diameter:  The mole is larger than 6 millimeters (roughly ¼”, roughly the size of a pencil eraser)

Evolution:  The mole has been growing or changed its shape and color.

Protect yourself anytime when outdoors, rain or shine. Don’t just avoid peak sun exposure hours between 10am and 4pm. Water, Sand and Snow reflect the sun’s rays. Wear sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher, remember to reapply. My favorite is Raw Elements USA. The Eco Stick can be easily applied under water and over sweat. Smaller than an energy gel, it’s easy to carry.  Look for sun protective clothing like Coolibar. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ocular melanoma. AVOID TANNING BEDS.  Apply sunscreen before placing your hands under the UV rays at the nail salon (bet you NEVER thought about that). Visit a trained dermatologist annually for a complete, head-to-toe exam.

I used to be bitter and angry with Melanoma. I was angry that it was determined to kill me. Then I realized. It saved me. I took back my health. Over time I started eating right, running, and having routine exams and screenings. I credit Melanoma for saving my life. Without it, I would not have detected my breast and cervical cancers in the early stages. I am living breathing proof that early detection is the key to survival.

As athletes we train and compete outdoors. We take precautions to train smart and eat right to prevent illness and injury. Please, don’t forget your skin.

Information, statistics, and ABCDE’s obtained via