Young, rich, and at a greater risk for skin cancer

A new study published March 21 found that wealthy young women are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, than their less-privileged counterparts. Regardless of how much money you have in your bank account, here's what you need to know to reel in your risks (and your time in the sun).

The study looked at wealthy young American women and teens in California and found them to be nearly six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than less-wealthy women and teens. Experts point to the fact that wealthy women have more leisure time to spend on the beach, and more money to invest in tanning salons, two factors that increase risks of skin cancer.

Since melanoma rates are soaring among young women, regardless of status or wealth, experts advise screening for melanoma for teens as young as 15 years old. Anyone with fair skin, a lot of moles, or who has spent a lot of time in the sun during their lifetime should check for melanoma, which can be quickly identified but when ignored is deadly.

To give yourself an exam, it is best to have a mirror and a flashlight, or a loved one to help you. If you see any of the irregularities listed below in moles or spots on your skin, consult a dermatologist. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) touts the following ABCDE's for self-screening for melanoma:

Asymmetry (one half unlike the other half)
B
order (irregular, scalloped or poorly defined)
C
olor (varies from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue)
D
iameter (the size of a pencil eraser or larger)
E
volving (changing in size, shape or color)

If you are uncomfortable doing the self-exam, have a health professional do it. Also a number of clinics conduct free screenings especially during the warmer months to promote skin cancer detection and prevention awareness.

Melanoma cases have more than doubled over the last three decades among white girls and women. The World Health Organization cites a rise in melanoma throughout the Western world, especially in countries where skin is typically fair or where tanning is the norm, such as in Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Since UV radiation exposure is cumulative, protect your skin by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF every day, even on cloudy days, and avoid tanning, direct sun, and tanning salons.

Access the study in the Archives of Dermatology: http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/archdermatol.2011.44

Learn more about melanoma: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFeuNzSWYus

 

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