NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– May is Melanoma Awareness Month.
The deadliest form of skin cancer — which is the most common of all cancers — it’s estimated that melanoma kills one person every 50 minutes.
A sunny day draws a lot of us outdoors. But few are mindful of its intensity.
“I had this one mole, one day it just popped up,” said Lisa Lynn, a noted fitness expert who joined the thousands diagnosed yearly with melanoma.
“I was floored,” she said. “Me? Melanoma? I’m a health guru. I take vitamins but the truth is, you can’t control everything.”
Lynn took control and had a mole removed from her left leg.
“Although it was black, small, like maybe as half of a size of an eraser, I just knew in my gut, something was wrong,” said Lynn.
Dr. Deepak Narayan at Yale-New Haven Hospital specializes in melanoma.
“What happens is the pigment cells in the skin turn malignant for various reasons, then get into the skin, travels in the blood stream, can spread to the lungs, to the liver, or spread to the lymph nodes,” said Narayan.
The standard of care for early stage, which is what Lisa had, is surgery. Dr. Narayan points out in the past five years there has been a tremendous advance in a new class of drugs.
“Most of them involved revving up the immune system, to help the immune system fight the melanoma,” said Narayan.
For those not responding to what is currently available, he’s in the lab trying to come up with a solution.
“Each tumor has a different geneticist nature,” Narayan said. “What we try to do in the lab is to dissect these out, to see if these tumors have any weak points that can be targeted with new drugs.”
For Lynn, her scar is all she needs to share her story.
“It’s a victory scar that reminds me that when I want to pick on my thighs, you’re alive. I’m alive today because of early detection and following through and medical advancement. So get your moles checked.”
Dr. Narayan says 80 percent of skin cancer deaths is due to melanoma. One big reason is people are just not paying attention to how much they are exposed to the sun.
The key to protection sunscreen with an SPF of 35 or more. And reapplying.
“What people don’t realize is that putting sunscreen on doesn’t make you invincible,” Narayan said. “And I think sometimes people overextend their reach by staying out in the sun too long with the notion that they’ve already put sunscreen on and they think they will be protected the rest of the day.”
He says a rule of thumb is a shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours.
For people more prone to sunburns, reapplying more with a higher SPF. And try to avoid the sun from 9 to 3 when the rays are the strongest.
Click here for more information on the deadly skin cancer.