Girl's Guide to Preventing, Avoiding, Treating, and Even Beating Cancer
THYROID CANCER: The Runaway Newcomer
MELANOMA: The Avoidable Killer
Men ages 15 to 39 are about half as likely as women of the same age to get melanoma. You can blame our cosmetic obsession with tanning: UV rays damage the chemical makeup of your skin's DNA, causing genetic mutations in your cells that can result in cancer. Melanoma treatment usually involves surgery. The good news: Diagnosed early, it has a 99 percent survival rate.
YOUR PERSONAL PREVENTION PLAN
-Scan your skin at home each month and jot down descriptions of all your moles. Don't forget to check the hidden areas on the soles of your feet, palms, ears, and even below the belt. Notice a difference in size, shape, color, or symmetry? Tell your dermatologist right away.
-Discuss your unique risk factors (e.g., fair skin, red hair, childhood sun exposure, and family history) to create a custom skincare plan with your dermatologist.
-Wear a shot-glass-size dollop of UVA- and UVB-blocking SPF 30 every day. Clothes don't cut it: The average SPF of a t-shirt is only about 6.
-Avoid tanning beds. They increase the risk of melanoma by 75 percent when used before age 30, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
REASON FOR HOPE
The FDA recently approved two new melanoma drugs: Zelboraf inhibits growth of melanoma cells, and Yervoy prolongs life by about 3.6 months in late-stage melanoma patients compared with a control group.
"When it comes to preventable cancers, melanoma tops the list." –DR. DAVID FISHER, MELANOMA PROGRAM CHIEF AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL
15%: The amount by which skin cancer rates jumped in women 35 to 39 between 2000 and 2008. –BASED ON FIGURES FROM THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE
50%: The proportion by which a first-degree relative with melanoma increases your risk of developing it. –SKIN CANCER FOUNDATION
CERVICAL CANCER: An STD in Disguise
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. "The strategies you use to avoid gonorrhea and syphilis, like barrier contraceptives, help prevent cervical cancer, too," says Dr. Michael L. Berman, director of the gynecologic oncology fellowship program at UC Irvine School of Medicine. While almost every case of cervical cancer is caused by HPV, not all HPV causes cancer — only certain strains. A Pap smear is your best chance of catching the disease, since symptoms, like vaginal bleeding, don't appear until later. (In late October, the American Cancer Society released revised Pap smear guidelines recommending that most women 21 to 65 get the test every three years, as opposed to annually.) The cancer is treated with surgery or a combination of radiation and chemo, and, tackled early, has a 93 percent survival rate, so don't even think about missing a scheduled Pap. That rate drops to 15 percent in the advanced stages.