Prevention and early diagnosis are essential for the most fearful skin cancer, because it can completely heal if discovered at an early stage. During the pandemic, however, too many Italians postponed dermatological visits
Patients who get melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer, are increasingly young, with an increasing number of 40-year-olds: it is in fact among the top three most common types of cancer in the Italian population under the age of 50. Cases have been on the rise for years, so much so that no other neoplasm has seen such a high increase in our country, going from 12,300 new diagnoses in 2019 to almost 14,900 in 2020. Unfortunately, however, due to the Covid pandemic, Italians they neglected prevention, postponing or canceling many checkups and inspections, as revealed by an event organized in streaming on the time.news website on 7 July last. It also emerges from a recent survey conducted by Doxapharma: 7 out of 10 compatriots have changed their attitude towards health following the health emergency, 52% decided to postpone some clinical visits and almost 80% did not consider it important to set up a dermatological control. “A very worrying phenomenon, especially if we consider that melanoma can be completely cured with only surgical removal if it is discovered at an early stage, when it is still confined to the most superficial layers of the skin – underlines Ketty Peris, director of Dermatology at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome and president of the Italian Society of Dermatology SIDeMaST -. And although it is the deadliest skin cancer, a few simple rules are enough both to prevent it and to diagnose it early and literally save the skin ».
Stay away from sun burns
The first is not to burn yourself and sunbathe intelligently: it is now known that UV rays (both natural and from tanning lamps) damage the DNA of skin cells and cause genetic mutations which, in the long run, can lead to the formation of a skin tumor. People who have a light skin phototype and those with numerous moles are at greater risk of melanoma, which also appears in areas not exposed to the sun such as the soles of the feet.
Look at your skin
“Equally essential is to make at least one annual visit to the dermatologist from the age of 30 – he adds Monica Forchetta, president of the Italian Melanoma Patients Association (Apaim) -. People at risk need to undergo more regular clinical checks, but a periodic examination of their skin should become a healthy habit for everyone: it can be done in pairs or alone, in front of a mirror. It is enough to dedicate even just five minutes a month to carefully scrutinize yourself from head to toe, without neglecting your back, skull or the palms of your hands and feet“. When you notice something different, if you are suspicious, it is best to talk to your GP or book a visit to the dermatologist to dispel any doubts.
Check the moles
“We must pay particular attention to two things – explains Peris -: first, if a mole changes color, shape or if it grows in size; second, if it appears a new injury, different from all the others, so much so that it can be considered as an “ugly duckling.” “Not wasting time and consulting a specialist is decisive, but this is precisely the great problem caused by the Covid pandemic, which in a few months made us steps backwards in prevention and early diagnosis that take us back 40 years – he says Paola Queirolo, director of the medical oncology melanomas, sarcomas and rare tumors at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan -. Estimates indicate that in Italy diagnoses of melanoma in the first 6 months of 2020 fell by 30%. This means that a third of cases will be discovered at an advanced stage, when the tumor is more difficult to cure, even if today we have many effective therapies ».
The scientific advances of the last decade they changed the history of this disease: until a few years ago patients with metastatic melanoma had very little chance of a cure and the hope of surviving was stuck in a few months, today thanks to the new drugs half of them are still alive five years after diagnosis. “We now know that some genetic mutations (such as that of BRAF) play a decisive role in tumor development – concludes Queirolo – and we have valid and well tolerated care. We also have a combination of drugs for people who discover advanced cancer (stage III) without metastases, but who are at increased risk of relapse after surgery. Hence the importance of tracing a complete and detailed identikit of melanoma of each patient, in order to choose the most suitable treatment ».
July 23, 2021 (change July 23, 2021 | 08:15)