Wear orange on Melanoma Monday

Event raises awareness of deadliest form of skin cancer

Published On: May 02 2013 11:05:18 PM EDT   Updated On: May 06 2013 07:45:33 PM EDT
Melanoma Monday
DETROIT -

The American Academy of Dermatology is urging everyone to wear orange on May 6, in honor of Melanoma Monday. 

The annual event is designed to raise awareness of skin cancer and motivate people to have any suspicious spots checked by a board-certified dermatologist. 

"Unlike other types of cancer, skin cancer provides visual warning signs that can be detected on the surface of the skin in the form of a 'spot' that changes, itches, or bleeds," said Dr. Dirk M. Elston, president of the Academy.  "When caught early, skin cancer has a 98 percent cure rate, which is why it is so important for people to know the warning signs and see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis."

Dr. Steven Grekin, a dermatologist in Warren, Mich., said he is seeing a growing number of patients suffering from melanoma.

"People think that will never happen to me, so they ignore these lesions on their skin," said Grekin.  "I guarantee you, the four or five patients I've seen in the last week, they didn't believe it would happen to them."

Sarah Brandes of Newport was just 29 years old when she was diagnosed with stage IIIC melanoma.  The mother of two said a friend urged her to have the mole on her calf checked out.

"I don't fit the typical stereotype for melanoma," said Brandes.  "Usually it's blond hair and blue eyes or red hair and freckles.  I'm brown hair and brown eyes, and I got it."

Brandes said she is especially concerned about teenage girls who lay out in the sun and visit tanning beds.

"They're so dark, and it's so dangerous.  I just want them to know it can happen to them," said Brandes.  "Tan is not important.  Your life is important."

Her advice for everyone -- it's a lot easier to prevent melanoma than fight it.

"Always wear sunscreen or protective clothing, hats, sunglasses," said Brandes.  "If you see changes in a spot, even like a little tiny freckle, a mole anything, if it changes colors, starts bleeding, itching, go to a dermatologist and get it checked out."

To download a body mole map to track changes in your skin, click here.

To learn more about melanoma, click here.

The American Academy of Dermatology is also urging everyone to participate in Melanoma Monday through social media.  Wear orange on Monday and share an individual or group picture of friends, family or co-workers sporting orange.  Photos can be shared on Twitter with the #SPOTorange hashtag.