May marks Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The first Monday of every May is called Melanoma Monday.

The goal is to bring awareness to the deadly disease and encourage people to get screened. “Melanoma is so preventable and when early detected so treatable that we want to raise awareness,” Dr. James Spencer of St. Petersburg’s Spencer Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center said.

Go here to find a cancer screening spot. 

See a dermatologist once a year, Dr. Spencer said. In addition, check yourself – and your loved ones. Remember the ABCDEs of melanoma detection.

  • A = asymmetry
  • B = border irregularity
  • C = Varying color
  • D = Diameter
  • E = Evolving

The Skin Cancer Foundation provides all the steps for performing a self-examination
If you have spots on your skin that look different than others, that change, or that itch or bleed, get to the doctor.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetimes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Melanoma, a less common but harder to treat, form of skin cancer, kills one person every 54 minutes in the United States. Doctors estimate melanoma will kill 9,730 people this year.

“Melanoma accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths,” the Foundation explains.

While other forms of cancer are decreasing in the United States, there’s a skin cancer epidemic, Dr. Spencer said. “People are just getting a lot more sun now,” he added.

Early detection is key in beating melanoma. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma patients is about 98 percent in the United States. If melanoma reaches the lymph nodes, that survival rate falls to 62 percent, according to the Foundation. Once the cancer metastasizes to more distant organs, the survival rate drops to 18 percent.

The sun is responsible for the majority of melanoma cases. “On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns,” the Foundation reports.

A person can reduce his or her risk of melanoma by 50 percent by using SPF 15 or higher, the Foundation says. Dr. Spencer encourages people to use SPF 30.

Experts also encourage people to avoid tanning salons. “More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning, including about 245,000 basal cell carcinomas, 168,000 squamous cell carcinomas, and 6,200 melanomas,” the Foundation says. “More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.”

The risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent in people who use a tanning bed before turning 35. Using a tanning bed 10 or more times increases the risk of melanoma by 34 percent.

“Enjoy the outdoors. Enjoy sports. Nobody is saying live in a cave, that would be crazy. Sunscreen and a hat goes a long way,” Dr. Spencer said. Avoid tanning beds and try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when rays are the strongest.

Read more statistics about tanning beds, melanoma and other skin cancers here.

The American Cancer Society’s website provides information about preventing, detecting and treating melanoma.