PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER) -- Part of what makes Maine special is the weather. It's comfortable outdoors for much of the year and the sun never seems to get too unbearable. But that charm comes with a risk; all that outdoor exposure makes Maine one of the leaders in the country for skin cancer. That natural risk is often coupled with man made factors... leading to melanoma at surprisingly young ages.
Melody Ladakakos began tanning at age 14, as a quick alternative to the sun.
"When I started going to dances and stuff is when I thought I needed to look tan to be prettier," said Ladakakos. The harmful effects of unprotected UV exposure didn't show on her skin until 20 years later.
It was a freckle on Melody's chest a few years ago. But it was Melanoma skin cancer that had to be removed.
"It was a pretty small section which turned into this pretty large scar," said Ladakakos. "Two of my other friends have had melanoma too, and we're all in our 30s."
Carmen Rinaldi M.D. at Dermatology Associates in Portland sees patients for a variety of skin conditions, but "the vast majority of our patients are being seen for skin cancer," said Rinaldi.
Of deadly skin cancers, Melanoma is the most common.
In a 2009 study done by the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine had the 10th highest number of new melanoma cases; 25% above the national average.
According to Rinaldi, the numbers are partly a reflection of a predominantly caucasian population in Maine. But these numbers also are about our comfortable sunny weather... that is rarely too hot to enjoy.
Sunburns increase the risk of skin cancers. And in New England, they're likely to happen in the first few sunny days of spring... when the skin is no longer protected by clothing and sunscreen hasn't become a habit.
And then there's a is the issue of our long winters and the use of tanning booths...
"The studies have shown that using a tanning booth on 1 occasion it increases your risk of melanoma 20 fold. And it increased with each subsequent use," said Rinaldi. "And if you used the tanning booth before the age of 35, some studies have showed a 75 percent increase in melanoma."
Melody is cancer free now and says she's more cautious in the sun. But the fear of recurring skin cancer remains on her mind.
"It''s daily thing because I don't want to die."
Studies show sunscreen protection helps prevent subsequent skin cancer.
Rinaldi suggests a daily broad spectrum (UVA & UVB protection) sunscreen SPF 15 and higher, applied 20 minutes before sun exposure.
There are free skin cancer screenings this month for those who qualify.
You should attend this screening if:
- You are over 60
- Do not have a regular dermatologist
- Have no insurance or are under-insured
Please call 1-844-504-9680 to make an appointment. Appointments will be made between 6:00pm–8:00pm on the following dates:
Mercy Oncology-Hematology Center
Fore River Medical Building
195 Fore River Parkway, Suite 360
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Cancer Care Center of York County
27 Industrial Avenue
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Southern Maine Health Care
13 Industrial Park Road
Monday, May 19, 2014
Maine Medical Center Cancer
100 Campus Drive, Suite 121
Wednesday, May 21, 2014