Malignant melanoma is on the increase. If you ask me, INCREASE is a "mild" term for it...malignant melanoma has JUMPED 5 to 7% a year since the 1970's, & it has yet to peak & plateau. In 2013, an estimated 10,000 American will DIE from melanoma. Dr. Svetomir Markovic, a hematologist & oncologist out at Mayo Clinic says, "The #1 cause of cancer related death in women of child-bearing age is malignant melanoma". Melanoma is the most rare but aggressive form of skin cancer & it's the most difficult to treat. Some of our country's top docs & researchers are working on new treatments & even a CURE, but there's still a long way to go. So far, there are only a few ways to delay it's deadly aggressive nature. Dr. Markovic says, "A small skin biopsy can be curative of what may, if done too late, be a FATAL diagnosis. If detected early, melanoma IS treatable with surgery. But if the cancer "embeds" itself deep into the skin tissue, the surgery is more complex, even disfiguring. Dr. Markovic says, "Once disseminated throughout the body, it's a very, very difficult disease to treat". Dr.'s think malignant melanoma starts with a blistering sunburn, but it takes years-decades even-for the mutations from the burn to develop into a malignancy. Meaning, the sunburn a person likely got as a kid is what causes melanoma later on in life. It goes without saying that sunscreen is the best defense for anyone who's going to be outside under our Montana Big Sky for a prolonged period of time. It's important to remember to reapply, as sweat & water washes off any protection. Dr.'s are also pushing for monthly, at-home skin exams. Similar to a woman's self-breast exam, oncologists want men & women to examine their skin for suspicious spots, new moles & odd shaped or discolored moles. Dr. Markovic says, "Once a month, get a little mirror &  look between your toes, in your hair & make certain everything is okay & also make sure your moles look fine. It's a small investment that may save your life". Dr. Markovic adds that the "may save your life" piece often gets forgotten with this disease. Enjoy the summer here in our Golden Triangle, but please be vigilant! For more information, visit: Old Mr. Sun ain't what he used to be when many of us were growing up, since we've been slowly destroying the ozone layer for years.. But that, AND tanning beds are both subjects for another day & another Puffman Blog.