CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As the weather gets warmer and we quickly approach the summer months, May is traditionally designated as National Melanoma Month. The first Monday in May is National Melanoma Monday, which is a day set aside to raise awareness about skin cancer.
We all know that we have to slather on sunscreen to keep our skin protected against harmful rays but there are likely a few things you don't know about melanoma.
First, cancerous spots can appear in areas that don't get direct sun. We reached out to Dr. Jennifer Dallas, of Novant Health Cancer Specialists in Charlotte, to find out which places are possible landing sites for skin cancer that many people don't think about.
Dallas' list includes the scalp, the ear canal, the buttocks, under the finger and toe nails, on the bottoms of feet, palms of hands, the lips or eyelids, under the arms or under your tongue. Skin cancer could also be hidden in a tattoo, according to Dallas.
Most melanoma is connected to the sun's ultraviolet light however, according to the statistics shared by Dr. Dallas, nearly 10 percent of melanoma occurs in people with a family history of skin cancer and some are a result of having no family history at all.
"This is why regular skin checks by a doctor are important and it is important for you to notice anything different about your skin, too," she said.
In regards to body parts that you can't see, experts suggest asking a loved one to check. You could even employ your hair stylist to check your scalp or your massage therapist to check your back.
These rules do apply to all of us.
There is a common misconception, Dr. Dallas says, that darker skinned individuals just don't get skin cancer. It isn't true, she says.
Darker skin does contain more melanin which protects skin but only to a certain extent. In fact, as many as 75 percent of cases in African-Americans appear on areas of the skin that don't get much sun at all.
According to statistics, African-Americans are more likely to die because they wait too long to go to the doctor.
You can find more information about what to look for and how to fight melanoma here.