DEAR ABBY: I recently had to tell another patient, this time a husband and father, that the irregular-shaped mole on his shoulder was melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Unfortunately, dermatologists see cases like this every day.
Despite outward appearances of being healthy, this man was a prime candidate for skin cancer. Unlike many of my patients, he had spent the better part of his youth swimming and playing baseball in the sun with his skin unprotected.
Regardless of age or skin type, everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer. Last year alone, there were 105,750 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States. To avoid becoming part of that statistic, your readers need to be "sun smart" when they have fun in the sun. They need to do such things as generously apply sunscreen, wear protective clothing, seek shade, get vitamin D safely -- through a healthy diet or dietary supplement -- and AVOID TANNING BEDS.
As a dermatologist, I can attest that practicing sun safety and getting screened for skin cancer are the best ways to ensure lifelong healthy skin. Please help me spread the word, Abby. -- STEPHEN P. STONE, M.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY
DEAR DR. STONE: I'm pleased to help, and thank you for your compassion and desire to protect my readers.
Folks, in addition to heeding Dr. Stone's suggestions, you can also take advantage of the American Academy of Dermatology's free skin cancer screening programs. Throughout the year, dermatologists provide free screenings to help educate the public about the importance of early detection of skin cancer. (The good news is, most skin cancers average a 95 percent cure rate if they are caught early.) To locate free screenings in your area, log onto � HYPERLINK "http://www.aad.org" ��www.aad.org� or call toll-free: (888) 462-3376.